Study Guide

Little Women

Little Women Summary

Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy March are four sisters living with their mother in New England. Their father is away serving as a chaplain in the Civil War, and the sisters struggle to support themselves and keep their household running despite the fact that the family recently lost its fortune. In the process, they become close friends with their wealthy neighbor, Theodore Laurence, known as "Laurie."

As the girls grow older, each faces her own personal demons and moral challenges. Jo, our beloved protagonist, must tame her tomboyish ways and learn to be more ladylike while pursuing her ambition to be a great writer. Meg, the oldest, must put aside her love of wealth and finery in order to follow her heart. Beth, the shy one, must conquer her bashfulness, while Amy, the youngest, has to sacrifice her aristocratic pride. The girls are guided in their personal growth by their mother, "Marmee," and by their religious faith.

The family's tight bonds are forever changed when Meg falls in love with John Brooke, Laurie's tutor. Meg and John marry and begin a home of their own, quickly populated by twins Daisy and Demi. Another marriage seems imminent when Laurie reveals to Jo that he has fallen in love with her, but she declares that she cannot care for him in the same way. Jo goes to New York as the governess for a family friend, Mrs. Kirke, experiencing the big city and trying her hand as a professional writer. Meanwhile, Amy travels through Europe with her wealthy Aunt Carroll and cousin Flo, nurturing her artistic talent. Separately, Laurie goes to Europe accompanied by his grandfather. He pursues his passion for music and tries to forget Jo.

While in New York, Jo meets German expatriate Professor Bhaer, whose intellect and strong moral nature spark her interest. Across the Atlantic, Laurie and Amy discover that they lack the genius to be great artists, but that they make an excellent romantic pairing. When Beth, who has never been strong, dies young, the sorrow of their loss solidifies Amy's bond to Laurie. Back in the States, Jo returns home to care for her bereaved parents and learns to embrace her domestic side.

All the loose ends are tied up as Jo and Professor Bhaer marry and start a boarding school for boys, while Amy and Laurie marry and use the Laurence family wealth to support struggling young artists. The Brooke, Bhaer, and Laurence households flourish, and the novel ends with a birthday party for Marmee, celebrating the extended March family connections and the progress of Jo's boarding school, Plumfield.

  • Chapter 1

    Playing Pilgrims

    • The four March sisters, Jo, Meg, Amy, and Beth, are sitting around the fire at home on Christmas eve. They're complaining about the fact that this year, the family is too poor for them to get presents.
    • Beth reminds the girls that they may not have presents, but they have each other and their parents. The other girls object that they don't have their father right now – he's away fighting. Since this novel is from 1868, we realize that Mr. March must be a soldier in the Civil War (on the Union side).
    • Meg reminds the girls why their mother asked them to give up presents this year – it's going to be a tough winter for everybody, and in wartime people need to make sacrifices at home to support the troops.
    • Jo suggests that each of the girls should spend her dollar (apparently this is their allowance) on something for herself. She wants a copy of a new romance novel called Undine and Sintram. Amy wants a box of drawing pencils.
    • Meg and Jo talk about how hard they work to earn money for the family. Meg is the governess and tutor for some obnoxious rich children, and Jo is the companion of a fussy old lady.
    • Beth reminds her sisters that she also works hard doing housework. Amy complains about going to school and being teased by the other girls.
    • Amy confuses the words "label" and "libel" and Jo teases her about her vocabulary.
    • Meg wishes that the family was still rich and reminisces about he fortune that her father lost when they were children. Beth reminds her that, even without money, they are happier than the rich people they know.
    • Amy and Jo bicker; Amy complains about Jo's crass mannerisms and Jo complains that Amy is stuck-up. Meg intervenes and says they're both at fault, but especially reprimands Jo for being too boyish.
    • Jo wishes that she were a boy so that she could go and fight in the war with her father; she hates the idea of growing up and being ladylike, and it frustrates her that she has to stay home knitting during the war. Beth soothes Jo.
    • Meg lectures Amy about being too conceited.
    • Beth asks Meg for some constructive criticism, but Meg has nothing critical to say about Beth.
    • The narrator breaks in and describes the scene and the appearance of the girls. All four of them are knitting together in the twilight in a room that is comfortable, but plain and shabby. It's decorated with books and flowers.
    • Meg, the oldest, is sixteen and very pretty, with soft white hands. Jo is fifteen, long-limbed and clumsy, but with beautiful long, thick, brown hair. Beth is thirteen, very shy, and calm. Amy, the youngest, is a pretty blonde girl with good manners.
    • The clock strikes six. The girls start preparing for their mother to arrive home; Beth gets her slippers, Meg lights the lamp, and so on.
    • As the girls think about their mother, whom they call Marmee, they decide to spend their money on gifts for her instead of for themselves. Meg decides to get her a pair of gloves, Jo a good pair of shoes, Beth some handkerchiefs, and Amy a bottle of cologne. They plan to go shopping early the next day.
    • Jo reminds the girls that they are putting on an amateur play tomorrow night as part of their Christmas celebration. She makes Amy practice a scene in which she has to faint, criticizing Amy for being too stiff and unnatural.
    • Amy doesn't make much progress learning to faint more naturally. Meg and Jo run through their lines. We learn that Jo herself wrote the play, which is called The Witch's Curse and seems to be extremely melodramatic.
    • The girls' mother arrives home, greeting them all and asking each of them about their days. She settles herself in the easy chair and the girls arrange things around her for supper.
    • As they begin their meal, Mrs. March tells the girls that she received a letter from their father recently and that she'll read it to them after dinner.
    • Meg praises her father for joining the army as a chaplain, even though he wouldn't have been drafted and isn't very strong physically.
    • After dinner, the girls gather around their mother in the easy chair and she reads the letter to them. At the end of the letter, he wishes the girls his love, asking his "little women" to work hard to do their duty and conquer their faults.
    • The girls cry a little and resolve to be better people and uphold their father's high principles. Amy says she'll try to be less selfish; Meg says she will try to be less vain and work harder; Jo resolves to do her duty at home instead of wishing she was a man and a soldier. Beth just cries.
    • Mrs. March reminds the girls that when they were little they made a game out of The Pilgrim's Progress, an allegory written by seventeenth-century preacher John Bunyan. In the story, a man named Christian goes on a pilgrimage through many hardships until he reaches the Celestial City.
    • The girls reminisce about their Pilgrim's Progress game. They used to tie bundles on their backs to symbolize their burdens and sins, and they turned the house into an adventure landscape. The Celestial City was on the roof, where they had brought flowers and pretty things.
    • In the course of the conversation, we learn that Amy is twelve.
    • Mrs. March suggests that the girls play Pilgrim's Progress again, only in a more grown-up way. Their burdens are their character flaws, their road is the life ahead of them that they need to live, and the Celestial City is, well, Heaven. Basically, they're reversing the allegory – going back to the part about living a good Christian life in order to gain salvation, instead of focusing on the fantasy story about fighting monsters and going on an adventure.
    • Everyone has already described their "burdens" except Beth; she says that hers is "dishes and dusters, and envying girls with nice pianos, and being afraid of people" (1.88).
    • Jo suggests that the girls have already gone through one adventure this evening: their mother pulled them out of their melancholy, just the way that the Help pulls Christian out of the Slough of Despond (just like a Swamp of Despair) in Pilgrim's Progress.
    • Jo recalls that, in Pilgrim's Progress, the main character has a scroll of directions. Mrs. March says that, if the girls look under their pillows on Christmas morning, they will find "guidebooks" for their "adventure." (You can probably guess what book a Christian might consider a "guidebook for life." If you can't guess, you'll find out in Chapter 2.)
    • The girls discuss their plan while their servant, Hannah, clears the table. After dinner, the girls work on sewing some sheets for their Aunt March.
    • The sisters sew until 9:00. Before they go to bed, they gather around the piano, and Beth accompanies them while they sing. This is an old family custom, since they have lovely voices and their mother is a "born singer" (1.94).
  • Chapter 2

    A Merry Christmas

    • Jo wakes up first on Christmas morning, disappointed there are no presents. Then she remembers their talk with Marmee and looks under her pillow. She finds a little red book.
    • The other sisters wake up one by one. Each of them has a copy of the same book under their pillow – Meg's is green, Amy's blue, and Beth's gray. The narrator doesn't specifically say what the books are, but it's strongly hinted that they are copies of the Bible.
    • The girls resolve to read a little of their books each morning before doing anything else. They begin right away.
    • After half an hour of reading, the girls go down to breakfast. They find their mother gone and their servant Hannah preparing the meal.
    • Hannah explains that a poor woman came to the door begging and Mrs. March has gone to see what she needs.
    • Meg prepares a basket containing the little presents the girls bought for Marmee the night before. Amy has disappeared, taking her present, a small bottle of cologne, with her.
    • Amy returns with a larger bottle of cologne, explaining that she is trying to be unselfish and she went back and exchanged the little bottle. Now she has spent all her money on her mother's gift. The girls praise her and add her gift to the basket.
    • Marmee comes in and tells her daughters that nearby there is a poor family, hungry and cold, in need of charity. She asks the girls to give their Christmas breakfast to this family.
    • At first the girls hesitate, but almost immediately they agree and begin bundling the food into containers so they can carry it.
    • Mrs. March, Hannah, and the girls make their way to the shack where the poor family live. The family consists of a mother with six children and a newborn baby.
    • The mother and children are overjoyed to receive food and firewood. They speak broken English interspersed with German and their last name is Hummel, so they are apparently recent immigrants.
    • After their charitable act, the girls go home to eat bread and milk. They are content, even though they don't get to eat any of their fancy Christmas breakfast.
    • Marmee goes upstairs to collect old clothes for the Hummels. The girls organize their gifts for their mother and Beth plays the piano as Marmee comes back into the room. She is touched and wears or uses each of the gifts right away.
    • For the rest of the day, the girls prepare for their evening entertainment – a performance of the play that Jo wrote. They have made all their own props out of household items and the girls play all the parts themselves, with Jo in the male roles.
    • A dozen of the girls' friends come over that evening to watch the play. At the sound of a bell, the curtains open on the first act of The Witch's Curse: an Operatic Tragedy. Here's where the play-within-the-novel begins:
    • In the first act, Hugo, the villain, played by Jo, sings to the audience about his love for the beautiful Zara, his hatred of the hero Roderigo, and his evil plans for them both.
    • Hugo orders the witch, Hagar, played by Meg, to give him a love potion and a poison. She summons spirits that provide both potions, but after Hugo leaves she explains that she actually has a grudge against him and has cursed him!
    • The curtain falls and there is a pause while the scenery on the stage is changed. When the curtain comes up again, the audience realizes that the girls have constructed a wooden tower. At the top of the tower is the heroine, Zara, played by Amy.
    • Roderigo arrives and convinces Zara to run away with him. As she is climbing down, the train of her dress catches on the window and pulls the tower down with a crash! Amy drops her character and starts saying "I told you so!"
    • The sister playing Zara's father Don Pedro (either Meg or Jo) rushes in and hushes Amy, forcing her to go on with the play.
    • Don Pedro banishes Roderigo from the kingdom, but Roderigo and Zara defy him. He sends them to his dungeon, and they are led away by a shy servant, played by Beth, who forgets her lines.
    • The third act is set in the castle hall. The witch Hagar sneaks in to foil Hugo's plans. She hides and watches Hugo bring two cups, one bearing each potion, but she manages to change them for harmless drinks before they are taken to Roderigo and Zara. She tricks Hugo into drinking the poison and he dies horribly, to the audience's glee.
    • In the fourth act, Roderigo has been told that Zara has deserted him, and is about to commit suicide when he hears a song under his window explaining that she is in danger. The key to his cell is thrown to him and he tears off his chains and escapes.
    • In the fifth and final act, Zara defies her father Don Pedro and refuses to go into a convent. Roderigo rushes in to rescue her. The lovers plead with Don Pedro, but he remains unmoved. Finally the servant enters with a sack of money and a note from Hagar, promising Don Pedro a fortune if he allows the marriage and a curse if he doesn't. He relents and the play ends happily.
    • The audience applauds fanatically, and their excitement is only briefly squelched when the collapsible bed they're sitting on closes up under them.
    • Hannah appears and asks the girls down to supper. Everyone is surprised because they didn't know about this part, and they discover a feast – cake, fruit, bonbons, fancy flowers, and even ice cream.
    • The sisters all have different theories about where the feast came from. Their mother explains that their rich neighbor, Old Mr. Laurence, sent it as a Christmas gift to reward them for their charitable act in the morning.
    • Jo wonders if the idea for the gift came from Mr. Laurence's grandson, Laurie, whom the girls have seen next door several times.
    • The girls talk about the Laurences. One of the guests knows that Old Mr. Laurence makes his grandson study hard with a tutor. Jo says she wants to get to know him, but Meg has been too prim and proper to let her speak to the boy without an introduction.
    • Mrs. March approves of Jo's plan to get to know young Mr. Laurence, saying that he is polite and gentlemanly. Jo decides that they'll ask the boy to help them next time they perform an amateur play.
    • As the girls enjoy the feast and the flowers, Beth remembers her father, far away, having a different kind of Christmas, and wishes she could send her flowers to him.
  • Chapter 3

    The Laurence Boy

    • Meg goes looking for Jo, who is doing one of her favorite things – sitting in the attic garret, eating apples, and reading.
    • Meg shows Jo their invitation to a New Year's Eve dance at Mrs. Gardiner's tomorrow evening.
    • The girls talk about what they will wear. Because their family doesn't have much money, each of them only has one dress that's nice enough, and those aren't that nice – they're poplin, which is a kind of cotton, instead of silk.
    • Meg has kept her clothes nice, but Jo has a burned patch in the back of her gown and she ruined her only pair of gloves with lemonade. This doesn't bother her, but Meg insists that Jo has to have nice gloves so that she can dance. Finally the girls agree that they will each wear one of Meg's good gloves and carry one of Jo's stained ones, because they can't afford to get Jo a new pair.
    • Once all this is settled, Meg goes off to accept the invitation.
    • The next evening, there's a bustle as the two older girls get ready for the party and their younger sisters help them.
    • Meg wants some curls around her face, so they wrap her hair in papers and Jo uses a pair of hot tongs to pinch it. This is the nineteenth-century version of a curling iron. Unfortunately. Jo waits too long and burns the hair right off!
    • Meg is upset, but the little girls comfort her and Amy arranges a ribbon in her hair to hide the burned patches.
    • After a few last touches, both girls are dressed but uncomfortable. Meg's high heels pinch her feet and Jo's hairpins stick into her head.
    • Mrs. March sees the girls off at the door and tells them to have a good time.
    • The girls arrive at Mrs. Gardiner's house, primp just a little bit more in front of the mirror in her dressing room, and then they're ready. Meg, who is more proper than her sister, agrees to help Jo try to behave well by raising her eyebrows if her sister does anything wrong and nodding if she's doing OK.
    • The girls head downstairs to the small party. They're greeted by Mrs. Gardiner and her six daughters. Meg is good friends with Sallie Gardiner and starts having a good time.
    • Jo, who doesn't have many interests in common with most of the girls, hangs out against the wall, hiding the burned spot in her dress and feeling awkward. She wants to go talk about skating with some boys in the next room, but Meg won't let her.
    • Eventually Jo is left alone while Meg dances. Meg's feet ache from the tight shoes.
    • Jo ducks into a corner behind a curtain to hide and finds the Laurence boy there already. She's about to run away when he asks her to stay.
    • At first Jo and the boy make awkward conversation, but then they remember the time they talked over the fence once before and they become more natural.
    • The boy asks Jo to call him "Laurie," a nickname based on his last name. His first name is Theodore, but he doesn't like it.
    • Jo finds out that Laurie has traveled abroad and asks him a lot of questions about Switzerland and France. She asks him to speak French for her, and he uses it as an opportunity to complement Meg, which pleases Jo.
    • Jo studies Laurie so that she will be able to describe him to her sisters. His features are fine and his hands and feet are small, plus he's very polite, so he seems somewhat feminine.
    • Jo fishes to find out how old Laurie is. She discovers that he's her own age, almost sixteen. She also discovers that he doesn't want to go to college.
    • To change the subject, Jo suggests that Laurie go and dance. He asks her to be his partner, and she has to refuse because of the burned part in the back of her dress.
    • Laurie suggests that he and Jo dance in the hall where nobody will see them. They do, and she has a lot of fun, especially because he teaches her a new dance move.
    • Jo and Laurie sit on the stairs to catch their breath after the dance. Meg comes to find Jo, obviously upset about something.
    • Jo follows Meg into a side room, where Meg collapses on the sofa and confesses that she has sprained her ankle because of the ridiculous high heels she was wearing. The girls aren't sure what to do; they can't walk home now, as they were planning, but they're not sure they can afford to hire a carriage, or that one will be available.
    • Jo wants to ask Laurie's help, but Meg refuses, thinking it wouldn't be proper. While Meg waits on the sofa, Jo goes to get her a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, Jo blunders around, going into all the wrong rooms, spilling the coffee down the front of her dress, and staining the glove she borrowed from Meg.
    • Laurie tactfully intervenes and fetches coffee and ice (probably in the sense of a dessert, like "ice cream") for both girls.
    • While they are chatting, Hannah arrives to pick up Meg and Jo. When she discovers that Meg's ankle is sprained, she scolds the girl, and Meg starts to cry.
    • Jo goes off on her own to try and hire a carriage, but can't seem to find the help she needs. Once again Laurie intervenes and offers to take them home in his carriage – it will be easy, since he lives next door to them!
    • They set off in the carriage. Laurie rides on top with the coachman so that the girls and Hannah can have the inside to themselves. They talk about the dance; both girls say they had a good time until Meg's accident.
    • After the girls arrive home and say goodbye to Laurie, their little sisters want to hear all about the dance. Jo has brought some candies and desserts home for them, which Meg thinks is rude.
    • The night ends with Jo reflecting that they have just as much fun as "fine ladies" even though they don't have a lot of money.
  • Chapter 4

    Burdens

    • The next morning, Meg is depressed. The holidays are over, the party is over, and now she has to go back to her daily grind. Jo tries to console her, but it's not easy.
    • Meg and Jo go downstairs to breakfast, and it turns out that everyone is in a bad mood. Meg is feeling dissatisfied with being poor, Beth has a headache, Jo is making a racket, Amy's not ready for school, Mrs. March is trying to finish a letter, and Hannah is cranky from staying up late.
    • Despite everyone's bad moods, Hannah has remembered to make a pair of turnovers for Meg and Jo to take with them as their lunch – and to keep their hands warm on the cold walk to the houses where they work.
    • Meg and Jo walk to work. Their walk is together most of the way, and Jo is able to cheer Meg with silly claims about what she'll do for her sisters once she's rich.
    • The narrator breaks in to explain what's going on. When Mr. March lost his fortune, Meg and Jo got jobs to help support the family. Meg is a governess for four children in a rich family, the Kings. Jo is a paid companion for her wealthy, cranky Aunt March.
    • The narrator explains that Jo puts up with her job as Aunt March's companion because, as soon as the old lady falls asleep, Jo can read the books in her uncle's library. (Her uncle died many years ago, but his books are still there.)
    • We learn more about the personalities of the girls. Jo is ambitious to do something amazing, but she isn't sure what. She has a hasty temper and tomboyish ways.
    • Beth, the third oldest sister, is too shy to go to school, so her parents have home-schooled her. Now that her father is away and her mother is busy with the war effort, she tries to do her lessons on her own. She spends most of her time doing household chores with the servant, Hannah.
    • Beth also plays with dolls a lot – she has a whole collection of the different dolls that her sisters have discarded over the years, and she takes care of them with love, almost as if they were pets.
    • Beth does have one sorrow – she loves to play the piano, but her family only has a really old one that's out of tune. She tries to practice, but it's almost impossible. She doesn't make a big deal out of it, but waits patiently hoping she'll get a nicer one someday.
    • Amy, the youngest, is vain. She worries a lot about the fact that her nose is flat instead of aristocratically pointed. She's also an artist; she spends a lot of time sketching, and she's pretty good at it. She has a lot of little aristocratic mannerisms, which are sometimes charming, but sometimes make her seem uppity.
    • One thing keeps Amy from being too vain: she has to wear hand-me-down clothes from her cousin Florence, and Florence's mother has terrible taste, so they're all really ugly.
    • The sisters tend to pair off – Meg and Amy have a special bond, and so do Jo and Beth.
    • That evening, the girls sit together sewing and talk about their day.
    • Jo says that Aunt March caught her reading a novel for fun, but then asked Jo to read some of it to her and got interested in the plot. Now Jo is excited because she's hoping she'll get to read some interesting stories to her aunt, instead of having to read aloud from boring moral essays all the time. She says that Aunt March could have a lot more fun in her life if she wanted to, with that wonderful library.
    • Meg also tells a story about her day. When she got to the Kings' house, everyone was really upset because the oldest son had done something disgraceful and been disowned by the family!
    • Amy describes something that happened in school. Another girl, Susie Perkins, came to school wearing a fancy carnelian ring that Amy envied. But then Susie drew a rude cartoon of the teacher and was punished in front of everyone.
    • Even Beth has an interesting story about something that happened. She went to the fishmonger's and saw a woman beg the shop owner to let her work in exchange for food for her family. He refused, but Old Mr. Laurence was there and bought a huge fish for the woman.
    • The girls ask their mother if she has a story to tell, and she does. She was helping sew coats for the troops (the Civil War is going on right now) and worrying about her husband when an old man came in. The man explained that he had four sons and all of them were in the Union army; two have been killed, one captured, and he's on his way to see the other, who is sick. Mrs. March feels blessed by comparison.
    • Jo asks Marmee to tell them another true story with a moral. She re-tells them the stories about their own days, showing them the lessons in those: Meg has learned that being rich can't keep a family from experiencing shame and disgrace; Jo has learned that her youth, health, and good attitude make her happier than her cranky old rich aunt; Amy has learned that behaving well is better than having nice stuff; and Beth has learned that, even though she has to work hard, at least she doesn't have to beg.
    • The girls are amused by their mother's "sermon" and promise to remember the lessons.
  • Chapter 5

    Being Neighborly

    • Jo comes in dressed to go outside. Meg asks what she's doing, and Jo says that she's going to get exercise. Meg can't believe that she's going out by choice on such a cold, wet day.
    • Meg goes back to reading Ivanhoe beside the fire. Jo goes from her family's snug cottage to the grey stone mansion next door to see Laurie.
    • Jo has been noticing that Laurie stays indoors studying a lot, and she has resolved to go over and tell his grandfather, Old Mr. Laurence, that he needs to have more fun.
    • After Mr. Laurence leaves, Jo gets Laurie's attention by throwing a snowball at him while he's leaning out of the window. He explains that he can't go out because he's sick and that he's really bored.
    • Jo agrees to come over and read to Laurie and amuse him while he's sick. Laurie smartens himself up a little while he's waiting for her.
    • Jo comes in, bringing good wishes from her mother, a blancmange (a custard dessert) from Meg, and Beth's kittens. These gifts (the kittens are just a loan) cheer Laurie up, and Jo makes him even more comfortable by tidying his room a little bit.
    • Jo offers to read to Laurie, but he would rather talk. What he wants to talk about is her family – he's been observing them from his window, envying their cozy life together.
    • Jo is surprised that Laurie has been watching her family. Laurie is somewhat embarrassed that he's been spying on them, but explains that their domesticity is so picturesque that he couldn't help himself.
    • Jo tells Laurie that he's welcome to watch her family through their front window if it gives him so much pleasure – but she also invites him to come over and hang out with them sometimes. She asks if his grandfather would allow it; Laurie thinks he probably would.
    • Laurie asks Jo about her school, and she explains that she works as Aunt March's companion. She tells a hilarious story about Aunt March's spoiled parrot.
    • Laurie is so cheered up by Jo's story that she tells him more details of her family's life.
    • Jo and Laurie begin talking about books. Laurie invites her to look through his grandfather's library.
    • Jo is blown away by Mr. Laurence's library, but startled when he suddenly returns home!
    • Mr. Laurence has brought the doctor, so Laurie goes off to be examined.
    • Jo is left alone in the library. She examines a portrait of old Mr. Laurence and speculates out loud about what the old gentleman might be like. She thinks he probably has a strong personality, but that he's also very kind.
    • Jo is surprised by old Mr. Laurence himself, who comes in behind her without her noticing. Jo is embarrassed that he caught her judging his portrait, but he doesn't mind because he thinks she was pretty accurate.
    • Mr. Laurence asks Jo what she has been doing with Laurie, and she explains that she's been cheering him up while he was sick. Then he asks after her mother, and she tells him that her mother is taking care of the Hummels.
    • Old Mr. Laurence invites Jo to stay for tea. As he, Laurie, and Jo eat and drink, Mr. Laurence notices how much happier his grandson seems having Jo for a friend.
    • After tea, Laurie takes Jo to the conservatory and shows her his grandfather's collection of hothouse flowers – things that don't usually grow in the climate of New England. Jo is dazzled by the sight and Laurie gives her some flowers to take home.
    • Jo and Laurie go back inside and Jo asks Laurie to play the piano. He does, but it upsets his grandfather, who leaves the room. Laurie says he'll explain this to Jo someday.
    • Jo goes home, accompanied by John Brooke, Laurie's tutor. At home, she tells her mother and sisters about her visit.
    • Marmee explains to Jo that Laurie's father, Mr. Laurence's son, married a musician. Old Mr. Laurence disapproved of the marriage and cut the family off, but then both of Laurie's parents died and his grandfather adopted him. This is why old Mr. Laurence doesn't like to hear Laurie play the piano – it reminds him of the daughter-in-law he disliked who caused the family rift.
    • Meg remarks that Laurie has very good manners and complimented Jo. Jo didn't even realize it and refuses to believe that there is anything sentimental going on.
    • Marmee tells Jo that she is welcome to have Laurie come over and visit anytime.
    • Beth compares the Laurence house to the Palace Beautiful from the allegory The Pilgrim's Progress. The Palace Beautiful is just what it sounds like, but it's guarded by dangerous lions.
  • Chapter 6

    Beth Finds the Palace Beautiful

    • The narrator explains what the "lions" are that keep the March family from entering the "Palace Beautiful" – that is, the Laurences' magnificent home. One "lion" is old Mr. Laurence, who is very intimidating. The other "lion" is the economic gap between the two families.
    • Laurie starts hanging out with the March girls a lot. He becomes much livelier and happier and starts neglecting his studies. Old Mr. Laurence tells the tutor, Mr. Brooke, to cut Laurie some slack so that he can spend time with his friends.
    • Gradually, each of the March girls overcomes her nervousness in relation to the Laurences, except for Beth, who is terrified by old Mr. Laurence.
    • One day, Mr. Laurence comes over to the March household. He doesn't talk to Beth directly, but he's careful to let her overhear him describing his piano. He says that it is becoming out-of-tune because nobody ever plays on it. With Beth listening, he tells Mrs. March that he would be grateful if one of the girls came over to play it sometimes, and that the house would be almost deserted, so they wouldn't have to talk to anyone.
    • Beth is so overjoyed at the idea that she could play the piano without having to confront Mr. Laurence that she can hardly sleep. The next morning, she hurries over to the Laurence house as soon as she's done with her chores.
    • Beth stays at the Laurences' house all day playing the piano. Even after Hannah goes and brings her back for dinner, she's too excited to eat anything.
    • After that, Beth goes over to the Laurences nearly every day to play the piano. She's spellbound by it – her family's piano is in terrible shape, so this is pretty much the only time she gets to hear her own music the way it ought to sound.
    • One day, Beth decides that she should make a thank-you gift for old Mr. Laurence. She embroiders him a pair of slippers and gives them to him by leaving them in his study.
    • In return for the slippers, Mr. Laurence sends Beth a note of thanks – and a small piano of her own! Jo thinks that the piano must have belonged to Mr. Laurence's granddaughter, who died as a child, and he has kept it ever since.
    • Beth realizes that she must thank Mr. Laurence in person for this generous gift. Before her bashfulness can stop her, she goes next door and walks right into his study. Beth's mothers and sisters are amazed by her boldness.
    • Mr. Laurence is touched by Beth's thanks and feels like he has gained a replacement for the granddaughter he lost.
  • Chapter 7

    Amy's Valley of Humiliation

    • The March girls are sitting at home together when Laurie rides by on horseback. Amy admires his horsemanship, and also his wealth. She says that she desperately needs money.
    • Meg and Jo laugh at Amy and ask why she needs money so badly. Amy explains that it is fashionable at school for girls to buy pickled limes and share them with each other. (Historical Tidbit: Apparently pickled limes are an awesome treat for nineteenth-century schoolgirls. And yes, that's not just a name – they're actually limes that have been pickled in brine. We're not sure we believe they're any good either, but just suspend your disbelief, or this chapter won't make any sense.)
    • Amy has had a lot of pickled limes from other girls, but she can't return the favor, and the other girls have said that she can't have any more until she takes her turn providing them.
    • Meg takes pity on Amy and gives her a quarter – the family's "rag money" for the month. (This is basically like the money you get for cashing in recycling; it's what the family gets for selling scraps of cloth from worn-out clothes and household linens.)
    • The next day, Amy comes to school with a brown paper bag of 24 pickled limes. (They cost a penny each; she already ate one on her way there!) She shows them off before lessons start and all the girls want to be her friend. But one girl, Jenny Snow, was rude to Amy before, and Amy tells her she's not going to get one.
    • The class begins. An important person visits the school and compliments Amy's hand-drawn maps. This sends Jenny Snow over the edge, and she tattles on Amy for having limes in her desk.
    • Unfortunately, Amy's teacher, Mr. Davis, hates pickled limes and has banned them at school. He calls Amy up front, humiliates her, and makes her throw the limes out of the window. He strikes her across the hand several times with a yardstick and then makes her stand at the front of the room until recess.
    • When recess finally comes, Amy takes her things and goes straight home. Her sisters, along with their servant Hannah, are outraged at the way she has been treated. Her mother is angry but doesn't say much.
    • Just before the school day ends, Jo takes a note to Mr. Davis. In the note, Mrs. March informs Mr. Davis that Amy is being withdrawn from the school.
    • Mrs. March tells Amy that she is going to be home-schooled from now on. Amy feels vindicated, but then her mother reminds her that it was still wrong for her to break the rules and take limes to school. Mrs. March tells Amy that she needs to be less selfish and conceited.
    • Laurie, who is playing a board game with Jo in the background, uses this as an opportunity to pay a compliment to shy Beth. As a reward, Jo lets him win the game.
    • When Laurie leaves, Amy asks her mother if he is accomplished. Her mother says that he is, and that he's liked because he has a lot of accomplishments, but he is polite and doesn't show off. Amy takes this lesson to heart.
  • Chapter 8

    Jo Meets Apollyon

    • Meg and Jo are getting dressed in their best clothes, ready to go out, when Amy comes in and wants to know where they're going.
    • Jo doesn't want to tell Amy, but after an hour of wheedling Meg admits that Laurie is taking them out to the theater to see The Seven Castles. Amy begs to come, but her older sisters tell her that she hasn't been invited and they don't have a ticket for her anyway.
    • Meg tries to comfort Amy, telling her that she'll be able to see the play next week with Hannah and Beth. That's not good enough for Amy, who wants to go tonight, with them and Laurie.
    • Meg wants to relent and bring Amy; she has a little money she could use to buy her own ticket. Jo refuses, saying that Amy's being rude because she wasn't invited, and that if she goes Laurie will end up giving her his seat and they won't be able to hang out with him.
    • Amy says that Jo is going to be sorry for this. Jo just laughs at her.
    • The play is wonderful, but Jo can't enjoy it because everything reminds her of Amy and makes her feel bad for neglecting her sister.
    • When they get home, Amy is reading quietly and doesn't say anything. Beth asks them about the play and they describe it for her.
    • Before she goes to bed, Jo checks her drawer – the last time she made Amy angry, Amy threw all her things on the floor. But it's fine, so she just goes to sleep.
    • The next day, Jo discovers that the manuscript of her book is missing. She asks if any of her sisters know where it is. Amy blushes, and Jo pounces on her – she's sure Amy has it.
    • Finally, Amy admits that she burned Jo's manuscript to punish her for being mean the day before. Jo is enraged and attacks Amy.
    • Meg separates Jo and Amy. Jo runs upstairs to the attic and cries.
    • When Mrs. March comes home, she makes Amy realize what a terrible thing she has done – Jo worked on the book of stories for several years, and she had just recopied them and destroyed the old drafts. There's no way that she can get back what Amy has destroyed.
    • Amy apologizes to Jo. Jo refuses to accept her apology.
    • That evening, everyone tries to behave as though things are normal, but Jo refuses to acknowledge Amy at all. Mrs. March tries to encourage Jo to forgive her sister, but she won't.
    • The next morning, Jo has a terrible day; everything seems to go wrong. When she gets home from working at Aunt March's, she asks Laurie to go ice skating.
    • Amy hears Jo putting on her skates and gets even angrier – Jo promised to take her skating the next time she went. She puts on her own skates and hurries after her sister.
    • Jo and Laurie begin skating. They're skating on the frozen river near their houses, which is somewhat dangerous.
    • Laurie checks the ice and tells Jo to keep close to the shore, since the ice isn't thick enough in the middle to hold their weight. Amy, a little ways behind them, doesn't hear this caution.
    • Jo hears Amy behind them, trying to catch up, but ignores her and goes on ahead.
    • Laurie skates off ahead. Jo turns around just in time to see Amy fall through the ice.
    • Jo calls to Laurie, who hurries back. They get a rail and use it to help Amy climb out of the hole in the ice. Amy is soaked and ice-cold.
    • Laurie and Jo take off most of their outer garments and bundle Amy up in them. They quickly walk her home.
    • Mrs. March changes Amy's clothes and bundles her up in blankets on the sofa. She says that Amy's going to be fine.
    • Once Amy falls asleep, Mrs. March starts to bandage Jo's hands which were cut by the rail. Jo, who feels terrible, asks her mother if Amy is really going to be OK. Mrs. March assures her that Amy will be fine.
    • Jo cries and says that it would have been her fault if Amy had died. She tells her mother that she hates being so hot-tempered and doesn't know what to do about it.
    • Mrs. March reveals to Jo that she also has a really bad temper. Jo is intrigued and asks how her mother learned to control it. Mrs. March says that she had her husband's help, and was also motivated by having children and wanting to be a good influence for them.
    • Jo asks her mother to help her learn to control her own temper, and Mrs. March promises that she will.
    • Jo remembers that she used to see her father quietly put his finger to his lips sometimes, and asks her mother if this was their signal, reminding Mrs. March to stay calm. Mrs. March says it was.
    • Mrs. March tears up, and Jo asks what's wrong. Mrs. March says that talking about her husband, Jo's father, made her miss him even more.
    • Jo tells her mother that she's amazed at her willingness to let her husband go to war. Mrs. March says that it wasn't easy, but she's trying to do her duty for her country and trust in God. Jo and Mrs. March share a tender hug.
    • Amy wakes up, and she and Jo hug and forgive one another.
  • Chapter 9

    Meg Goes to Vanity Fair

    • Beth, Jo, and Amy are helping Meg pack her trunk. She's going to spend two weeks staying with the wealthy Moffat family to celebrate Belle Moffat's coming-out party. (Historical Context Lesson: nineteenth-century girls of the higher classes had "coming out" parties around age sixteen. The family would throw a lavish dance and the girl would officially enter adult society. The March girls, however, are too poor to have this kind of party.)
    • Meg is collecting together all of her nicest clothes and accessories. Each of her sisters has loaned her best things also, and Marmee has given Meg some family treasures. Even so, Meg's things aren't nearly as nice as the gowns and accessories of the rich girls she's going to be hanging out with.
    • The next morning, Meg leaves for the Moffats' house. Mrs. March is worried about the excursion, but she lets Meg and her friend Sallie persuade her that it will be OK.
    • At first, Meg is intimidated by Moffats, who are wealthy and fashionable. But they are also nice to her, and she adapts quickly to a life of leisure.
    • Now living the life of an upper-class gentlewoman, Meg basically spends her time having fun...in a very, very proper way. As one of several guests – the Moffat girls are basically hosting a two-week, formal-feeling sleepover – she spends her time walking, riding, shopping, calling on people, and going to the theater and the opera.
    • The evening of the first party arrives. Meg discovers that her second-best dress isn't good enough and has to wear her best one, which seems especially shabby next to the other girls' finery.
    • A bouquet of wonderful flowers and ferns arrives. Everyone assumes it is for Belle, but it turns out that Laurie has sent flowers to Meg. They're not for putting in a vase – they're for wearing, as corsages and other accessories.
    • Meg wears a few of the flowers herself and makes the others into bouquets and decorations for the other girls. They're very pleased with her kind desire to share.
    • That evening, Meg really enjoys the party. Everyone seems to like her; she's asked to sing, and Mr. Moffat compliments her on her dancing.
    • At the end of the evening, Meg overhears some of the older women talking about her and about the flowers she received from Laurie. The women suggest that Mrs. March must be scheming to marry Meg to Laurie so that the March family can have money again.
    • Meg continues behaving gracefully at the party, but she feels terrible after what she overheard. That evening in bed, she cries a little bit and wonders if the women are right about her mother's plans.
    • In the morning, the girls dawdle and have trouble getting going after the party of the night before. In the afternoon, as they are sewing (even upper-class women did decorative sewing), Belle Moffat tells Meg that she has invited Laurie to the second party.
    • Meg discovers that the girls think she and Laurie are romantically involved. She tries to tell them that she thinks of Laurie, who is a year younger than her, as a little boy, but they don't believe her.
    • Belle offers to lend Meg a nicer dress for the second, fancier dance. Meg tries to refuse politely, but Belle insists.
    • On the evening of the party a few days later, Belle and her maid dress Meg up like a fashionable lady, do her hair, and cover her in makeup and jewelry. Meg hardly recognizes herself, but she's excited to look so fashionable.
    • When they go down to the party, Meg discovers that people who ignored her at the previous party are falling all over themselves to be nice to her now, just because she's dressed up.
    • Meg is flirting and trying to manage her dangly earrings, trailing skirt, and fancy fan. Suddenly she sees Laurie, who looks upset and disapproving.
    • Meg blushes and her girlfriends nudge each other, thinking that she's in love with Laurie.
    • Meg goes over to greet Laurie, but he is stiff and uncomfortable with her. He tells her that he doesn't like the way she looks, because he dislikes "fuss and feathers."
    • Meg, insulted, walks away. She overhears someone say that her friends have made her look foolish by dressing her up like a doll.
    • Meg feels terrible. Laurie comes over, apologizes to her and asks her to dance.
    • Meg and Laurie dance for a little bit, and then they have to take a break – Meg's corset makes it difficult for her to breathe. Meg asks Laurie not to tell her family about her behavior this evening – she says she'll tell them herself.
    • Ned Moffat comes to claim some of the dances that Meg has promised him. She says goodbye to Laurie for the meantime.
    • At dinner, Laurie notices that Meg is drinking champagne. He cautions her not to drink too much, since it will give her a hangover the next day. (Meg's family doesn't drink at all, so she isn't very experienced with it.)
    • Meg just laughs at Laurie and continues drinking, flirting, and generally letting herself go. Laurie wonders if he should intervene, but decides not to.
    • The party ends. Meg goes to bed, already suffering from a headache, and feels sick all the next day. The day after that, she goes home, and is glad to be there.
    • Meg tells her family that she's happiest in the family home, even though it's not as splendid as the Moffat's mansion.
    • To her sisters, Meg tells the fun and exciting aspects of her visit. After the little girls go to bed, she asks her mother if she can confess.
    • Jo, who is still in the room, asks if she should leave them alone, but Meg tells her to stay.
    • To her mother and Jo, Meg confesses her flirtatious behavior, her drinking, and her other "dissipations." She says that Laurie disapproved of her.
    • Mrs. March comforts Meg and says that she can tell there's something else going on. Meg says yes and tells her about the conversation she overheard in which some of the women suggested that her mother was plotting to marry her to Laurie.
    • Jo wants to confront the Moffat girls about their gossip, but Meg and Marmee tell her not to repeat it.
    • Meg asks Marmee if she has "plans" for her daughters. Mrs. March says that she does, but they're not the scheming, money-grubbing plans that the other women assumed. She wants her daughters to be good and happy and have their self-respect, whether or not they get married and whether or not they are rich.
  • Chapter 10

    The P.C. and P.O.

    • (Fair warning: If you haven't read The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, this chapter won't make a lot of sense. We'll do our best to explain the references, but you might also want to read some of Dickens' novel to get the idea.)
    • Spring comes and the girls each tend a corner of the family garden. Each sister plants things and takes care of her garden in a way that reflects her personality – Meg's is pretty and simple, Jo constantly experiments, Beth grows things for the birds, her pet cats, and other animals, and Amy makes hers beautiful and elegant. Symbolism!
    • On rainy days, the girls hold meetings of their "Pickwick Club," which they call "the P.C." (Historical Background Lesson: The Pickwick Papers was Charles Dickens' first novel, published in the early nineteenth century, and apparently a favorite of the March sisters. It's an episodic story about Samuel Pickwick and his friends, who form a Pickwick Club at which they report on their travels throughout England. In the nineteenth century, there were many imitation Pickwick Clubs started by fans of the novel, so Jo and her sisters aren't the only ones to do this.)
    • During the meetings of the P.C., each of the girls impersonates one of the characters in The Pickwick Papers. Meg is Samuel Pickwick, Jo is Augustus Snodgrass, Beth is Tracy Tupman, and Amy is Nathaniel Winkle.
    • The P.C. produces a newsletter that they call The Pickwick Portfolio, in which each of the girls contributes articles. This is appropriate, since The Pickwick Papers is also about, well, papers. The clue's in the name!
    • At their meetings, Meg, as Mr. Pickwick, reads the paper they've produced this time to her sisters.
    • The edition of The Pickwick Portfolio that Meg reads in this chapter contains the following articles:
    • A poem celebrating the anniversary of the club, written by Jo.
    • A romantic tale about mistaken identity and marriage in Venice, written by Meg.
    • A joke about the club.
    • A recipe for baked squash, written by Beth.
    • A letter explaining why she hasn't written anything for the newsletter, by Amy.
    • A report of an accident that Meg had while getting firewood in the attic.
    • A description of the family's missing cat, Snowball.
    • A poem lamenting the lost cat, written by Jo.
    • A variety of announcements about things that are going to happen soon, such as Hannah teaching the girls to cook and Beth displaying the new doll's clothes she has made.
    • A comment on the behavior of each of the girls.
    • Meg, in the character of Samuel Pickwick, finishes reading each of these items from the paper and the girls applaud.
    • Jo gets up and, in the character of Augustus Snodgrass, proposes that they admit a new member to the club – Laurie.
    • The girls vote on the proposal. Beth and Jo are in favor of letting Laurie join them. Meg and Amy are against it – Meg is worried Laurie will laugh at them, and Amy is still young enough that she doesn't want to play with a boy.
    • Beth and Jo convince the girls to let Laurie join the club. They vote again, and everyone is in favor this time.
    • Jo opens the closet door and reveals Laurie, who has been hiding there the whole time.
    • Jo's sisters are a little irritated by the deception, but they're won over by Laurie, who immediately enters into the spirit of the club by announcing that he will play Sam Weller. (This is appropriate because Sam Weller is introduced in Chapter 10 of The Pickwick Papers, just as Laurie joins the March girls' Pickwick Club in Chapter 10 of Little Women).
    • Laurie announces that, as a token of his gratitude for being allowed to join the club, he is going to give them a post-office box. The box looks like a large birdhouse, and he has put it in the middle of the hedge between the March and Laurence houses. This "post office," or "P.O." for short, will let them exchange letters – partly for the club newsletter, and partly just for fun. It has a lock and Laurie holds one key, while the girls hold the other.
    • Laurie is an enthusiastic and wonderful member of the club, and the P.O. is a big hit.
  • Chapter 11

    Experiments

    • It is June 1, and all four sisters are ready for some summer vacation. The Kings, the family for whom Meg works as a governess, are going out of town, and so is Aunt March, so Jo and Meg are both free.
    • Meg's plan for her vacation is to laze around and have some down time. Jo has a stack of books she wants to read.
    • Beth and Amy are home-schooled, but they decide to take a break from their studies while Jo and Meg are on vacation. Beth wants to learn some new music and make clothes for her dolls.
    • The girls ask their mother if it's OK for them to take a break from their daily duties and enjoy their summer vacation. Marmee tells them they can try it for a week as an experiment, but she thinks they'll get tired of all play and no work.
    • The next day, the girls all do whatever they want instead of their chores and housework. Meg gets up late, reads and sits around, then goes shopping and wastes money. Beth plays with her doll collection and the clothes she makes for them, makes a big mess, and doesn't clean it up. Jo sits in a tree and reads and gives herself a headache. Amy goes for a walk to go sketching and gets soaked in the rain.
    • In the evening, the girls agree that the day has been great, although it has felt really long. Nobody will admit to being bored or unhappy, and they tell their mother that the "experiment" is working well.
    • Mrs. March smiles to herself and doesn't say anything. She and Hannah do the housework that the girls are neglecting, and she leaves the girls to learn their lesson on their own.
    • The girls quickly get tired of doing "all play and no work." In fact, Beth keeps forgetting to be lazy and does some work, so she actually starts to feel better. But Jo reads until her eyes ache and fights with Laurie; Meg ends up ruining some of her best clothes by making little alterations to them and trying to make them fashionable; and Amy, left to herself, is bored and lonely.
    • On Friday night, the girls are each secretly glad that the experiment is almost over. Mrs. March resolves to really give the girls a taste of their own medicine on the last day. She gives Hannah Saturday off.
    • On Saturday morning, Mrs. March stays in her room and says that she is very tired. She leaves the girls to fend for themselves.
    • The girls, who are used to relying on their mother for everything, are very surprised, but they're also relieved to have something to do. However, they quickly learn that the housekeeping is difficult and requires a lot of skills that they haven't mastered.
    • The sisters make breakfast for their mother, but they're not very good cooks and they ruin almost everything. Mrs. March laughs to herself privately about their failure – she's already put aside a nicer breakfast for herself.
    • Jo takes over the cooking from Meg. She decides to invite Laurie over for dinner to apologize for quarreling with him earlier in the week. (Historical Context Note: "dinner" doesn't mean the evening meal in this case – it means the midday meal, what we would call "lunch.")
    • Meg isn't sure that they're up to having company, but Jo is pretty confident that she can make the meal. She plans to have corned beef and potatoes, lobster and asparagus, salad, blancmange and strawberries, and coffee. It's not an ambitious menu or anything!
    • Meg reminds Jo that the only things she knows how to make are gingerbread and molasses candy. Jo is hurt by Meg's lack of confidence.
    • Jo asks for her mother's permission and input on the meal. Mrs. March tells her to do whatever she wants; she's planning to have dinner (read: lunch) out with friends and to spend the day amusing herself, the way the girls have been doing.
    • When Jo goes back downstairs, she finds Beth crying. Beth has forgotten to feed her pet canary, Pip, for several days, and the bird is dead!
    • Jo tries to comfort Beth and says they'll have a funeral for Pip later. She leaves Meg and Amy to comfort Beth and goes back to the kitchen.
    • Jo rekindles the fire in the oven, which has gone out. While the stove heats, she goes downtown and buys food. She's not very experienced at choosing it, so she gets things that aren't very good.
    • When Jo gets home, she discovers that Meg has forgotten about some loaves of bread that were rising on the hearth. She storms into the parlor to ask Meg if the bread has risen enough, since it's running over the edges of the pans. Meg, who is entertaining her friend Sallie, is embarrassed when Jo comes in covered in flour.
    • While Jo is doing the cooking, Mrs. March comes downstairs and checks on how everything is going. She comforts Beth a little bit, and then she leaves for the evening. The girls feel helpless without her.
    • Just after Mrs. March leaves, Miss Crocker appears and says that she is coming to dinner. (Again, by dinner, we mean lunch.) Miss Crocker is an old, unmarried friend of the family. They've been taught to be kind to her, but she's gossipy and rude.
    • Meg entertains Miss Crocker while Jo tries to make the meal. Almost everything is ruined or spoiled in some way: the potatoes are underdone, the asparagus is overdone, the bread is burned, the blancmange is lumpy, and she doesn't know how to get the lobster meat out of the shell.
    • Finally Jo serves the meal to her sisters, Laurie, and Miss Crocker. She feels embarrassed and disheartened and is worried about what they're going to think – and say!
    • As each course goes around the table, the guests try it, and then leave it on their plates. Jo keeps blushing and feeling very embarrassed. Laurie tries to be very chatty and friendly to make everyone more comfortable.
    • Finally, they reach the last part of the meal, which is strawberries and cream. Jo feels relieved because she thinks this at least will be OK, but then it turns out the cream is sour and she's sprinkled the fruit with salt instead of sugar!
    • Jo is about to cry, but then she catches Laurie's eye, and they burst out laughing. Soon everyone is laughing, including sour Miss Crocker. The meal ends happily after all as they eat bread, butter, and olives.
    • Miss Crocker goes home. The girls attend the "funeral" for Beth's canary, Pip.
    • In the afternoon, the girls busy themselves by making the house nice. Beth feels calmer after making the beds; Meg and Jo clean up after the disastrous meal; and Laurie takes Amy out for a drive in his carriage to get her out of the way and cheer her up.
    • When Mrs. March comes home, she finds that the girls have abandoned their "experiment" and decided to balance play with work after all.
    • At the end of the day, the girls talk about what a bad day they've had and how much they missed their mother.
    • Marmee comes in and talks to the girls about their day. They agree with her that it's better to have a few chores and tasks in order to contribute to a nice home for everyone, and that staying busy feels better anyway.
    • Each of the girls resolves to focus on a specific task that is in front of her – Jo is going to learn basic cooking, Meg is going to make some new shirts for her father, Beth is going to work harder at her home-schooling lessons, and Amy (who is, after all, pretty young at this point) says that she will learn the parts of speech and how to make buttonholes.
    • Mrs. March says that she is satisfied now that the girls understand the value of work.
  • Chapter 12

    Camp Laurence

    • On a day in July, Beth is delivering the "mail" from the little "Post Office" in the hedge between the March and Laurence houses. This batch of mail includes a small bunch of flowers for Mrs. March from Laurie, a translation of a German song by Mr. Brooke for Meg (along with a glove that she left at the Laurences' house), and two letters, a hat, and a book for Jo.
    • Jo unfolds and reads the first letter. It is from her mother and commends her for her efforts to keep her temper and learn to be a calmer person. The letter makes her tear up happily, because she thought that nobody had noticed.
    • Jo unfolds and reads the second letter. It is from Laurie, telling her that some English boys and girls about their age, the Vaughns, are going to be visiting him. Laurie invites Jo and her sisters to come to a picnic with them tomorrow.
    • The girls ask their mother if they can attend the picnic and she agrees. They talk about what it will be like. Jo tells Meg that there are four Vaughns, Kate, Fred, Frank, and Grace. Kate is a little older than Meg, Fred and Frank are twins of Jo's age, and Grace is a little girl around Amy's age.
    • Jo and Meg talk about what they will wear to the picnic. Jo convinces Beth to come to the picnic despite her extreme shyness.
    • Amy comes in and shows the mail that she received – a box of chocolates and a picture. Beth has received a letter from Mr. Laurence asking her to come over and play the piano for him.
    • The girls spend the rest of the day doing extra chores so that they will be free to attend the picnic tomorrow.
    • Overnight, each of the girls makes extra preparations for the picnic. Meg has the hair around her face in curling papers, Jo has slept wearing face cream (we assume she has acne, although Alcott is too delicate to say so), Beth slept with her favorite doll to apologize for leaving it behind all day, and Amy slept with a clothespin on her nose because she wants to reshape it.
    • In the morning, the girls dress for the picnic and watch the preparations next door. The notice several other people they know, including Sallie Gardiner and Ned Moffat, arriving also. They also notice that one of the Vaughn boys is on crutches.
    • The March girls are ready to go. Meg is distressed to learn that Jo is planning to wear the silly hat Laurie sent her.
    • Laurie introduces the March girls to the Vaughns on the lawn in front of their houses. Everyone notices that Kate Vaughn is kind of stuck-up. Beth feels compassion for Frank, the sickly twin. Amy and Grace, the two little girls, hit it off well.
    • The party sets off for the picnic site in several boats. Jo and Laurie row one boat, while Mr. Brooke and Ned row the other. Fred Vaughn paddles around in a little boat of his own making mischief.
    • Soon they arrive at Longmeadow, where a tent has been pitched and a croquet ground prepared.
    • They start by playing a game of croquet. Frank, Beth, Amy, and Grace, who are too unwell, too shy, or too young to play, sit and watch. The others divide into two teams: Mr. Brooke, Meg, Kate, and Fred on one team, and Laurie, Sallie, Jo, and Ned on the other.
    • The English play well, but the Americans play better. At one point, Jo is ahead of Fred, who is close behind her. He goes over to look at his croquet ball and cheats by pushing it through the wicket.
    • Jo accuses Fred of cheating and he denies it. There's a lot of banter about Brits versus Yankees. Jo starts to get really angry, but takes some time by herself looking for her croquet ball to cool down.
    • Jo manages to get ahead in the game again and, in the end, she wins for her team.
    • Laurie and Meg both privately congratulate Jo on keeping her temper. Jo says that she is still pretty angry.
    • Next, everyone lends a hand making preparations for lunch. The meal is jolly and fun, even though there are insects in the food and the table keeps wobbling and spilling things. Jo and Laurie sit together and share a plate.
    • Laurie asks Jo what they should do next. Jo says they should play a quiet game until the afternoon sun cools off a little. She tells Laurie to ask Kate to suggest the game, out of politeness to the guests.
    • Kate suggests a game that she calls "Rig-marole." One person starts telling a story and then breaks off at an exciting point. The next person continues the story and does the same thing. Kate orders Mr. Brooke to start.
    • Mr. Brooke begins the story and describes a lonely knight on a quest who falls in love with a captive princess.
    • Kate continues the story and makes it dramatic and sensational.
    • Ned takes a turn telling the story, and his narration is action-packed and exciting.
    • Next Meg tells part of the story, giving it a creepy, Gothic feel.
    • Jo starts to take up the story and make it comical, but when she pauses to take a breath, Fred jumps in and turns it into a story about pirates.
    • Sallie is next and doesn't know what to say. She adds some mermaids and a fairy-tale feel.
    • Amy tells a little of the story, introducing a little goosegirl and making it more like a fable.
    • Laurie jumps in and tries to tie up most of the loose ends in the story – he brings several murdered knights back to life and reunites the first knight with the princess. Then he turns to Frank to finish.
    • Frank says that he's not playing. Beth is hiding behind Jo because she is too shy to take a turn, and Grace is asleep, so that's as far as the story goes.
    • Next, they decide to play Truth. (This is basically a more boring version of the game you might know as Truth or Dare.) They draw lots, and whoever is chosen has to answer three questions put by the group truthfully.
    • Laurie is first. In answer to his friends' questions, he says that his grandfather and Napoleon are his heroes, Meg is the prettiest girl there, and Jo is his favorite.
    • Jo is next. She admits that a quick temper is her worst fault, that her greatest desire is to be a genius, and that the virtues she most admires in a man are courage and honesty.
    • Fred is next. Jo and Laurie gang up on him; Jo makes him admit that he cheated at croquet, and Laurie makes him admit that he took his part of the story out of The Sea-Lion. He also says, in response to Sallie's question, that he thinks England is perfect.
    • Sallie is next. She claims in a flirtatious way that she's not a flirt, says that she hates spiders and rice pudding, and that she loves dancing and French gloves.
    • Next the group play Authors, which is a card game kind of like Go Fish, in which the cards have pictures of famous authors and you try to collect sets of them.
    • While the others play, Meg watches Kate sketch and Mr. Brooke lies near them, sort of reading a book.
    • Kate and Meg, who are the two oldest girls there, chat about their circumstances. Kate is patronizing and snobby when she discovers that Meg works as a governess. Mr. Brooke intervenes and defends the hard-working character of the American woman.
    • Mr. Brooke tutors Meg in German. Even though Kate is a much more correct reader of German, Meg has more of a feel for the musical quality of the language and for the poetic form.
    • Kate leaves Mr. Brooke and Meg alone, deciding that she doesn't need to chaperone a mere governess.
    • Meg and Mr. Brooke talk about their respective jobs as teachers. Mr. Brooke says that there's no place like America for workers.
    • Meg asks Mr. Brooke what he will do after Laurie goes to college next year. Mr. Brooke says that he will enlist as a solider. (Did you remember that this book takes place during the Civil War? It's easy to forget, since the war is far away from the March girls' everyday experience.)
    • Meg says that she's glad Mr. Brooke is going to serve his country. Mr. Brooke says that he's alone in the world and nobody cares whether he lives or dies anyway. Meg says that the Laurences and Marches all care.
    • Meanwhile, Amy and Grace are talking about riding. Grace, as an upper-class English girl, goes riding a lot and has her own pony. Amy rides "Ellen Tree," which is a low-hanging branch on the family's apple tree. Sometimes Jo puts a saddle on the tree branch and Amy pretends to ride it.
    • Close by, Beth and Frank are talking. They don't have much in common, but Beth lets Frank talk about the differences in hunting between England and America, and they end up discussing buffaloes.
    • They play some more games, and at sunset they take down the tent and row their boats back home.
    • On the way back, Ned tries to flirt with Meg, who is too sweet and proper to flirt back.
    • As the March girls return home, Kate says that American girls are quite nice when you get to know them, and Mr. Brooke agrees.
  • Chapter 13

    Castles in the Air

    • Laurie is lying in his hammock being lazy when he sees the March girls leaving their house, carrying a variety of strange things. Laurie thinks they are having a picnic without him and feels left out. He goes after them to see what they're doing, and to give them the key of the boathouse if they want it.
    • Coming over the hill, Laurie sees the four girls sitting under a tree and working busily. Meg is sewing, Amy is sketching, Jo is knitting and reading aloud, and Beth is sorting the pinecones that she uses to do crafts.
    • Laurie isn't sure whether he should go away quietly and leave them alone. Jo and Beth want to let him join them, but Meg says that he has to do something – this is a "Busy Bee Society" and nobody is allowed to be idle.
    • Laurie takes over reading aloud from Jo. When he finishes the story, he asks what they're doing.
    • Meg and Amy are still worried that he'll make fun of them, but over their objections, Jo explains about the "Pilgrim's Progress" game. The girls have stayed busy all summer as part of "carrying their burdens" in the game, and sometimes they come and work on the hill and pretend it is the Delectable Mountain from the story.
    • The girls talk about their hopes for the future and allude to their hopes of going to Heaven in the afterlife. Beth longs to see Heaven, and Jo and Laurie talk about how hard it is for them to be good.
    • After a pause, Jo and Laurie begin talking about their earthly dreams and hopes – their "castles in the air." Each of them describes his or her own "castle in the air."
    • Laurie's dream is to travel the world, then live in Germany and be a famous musician.
    • Meg's dream is to be the mistress of a wealthy mansion. Laurie and Jo tease her about wanting a master for the mansion, too, and maybe children.
    • Jo says that she would have a stable full of horses, a house full of books, and be a famous writer. She wants to do something amazing before she dies.
    • Beth just wants to stay at home and take care of the family.
    • Amy wants to go to Rome and be a famous artist.
    • Laurie comments on the fact that they are all ambitious. Jo suggests that, in ten years, they should get together and see how their real lives compare to their dreams.
    • Laurie talks about his grandfather's plans for him and how much he dislikes them. Mr. Laurence wants Laurie to go to college, then be a merchant importing tea, silks, and spices from India. Laurie is going to go to college, but hopes that after that his grandfather will let him do what he wants.
    • Jo thinks Laurie should run off and have adventures. Meg rebukes her and tells Laurie he must do what his grandfather wants. Meg advises Laurie to be as good as Mr. Brooke.
    • Laurie asks Meg what she knows about Mr. Brooke. Meg says that she knows he looked after his mother while she was dying, works hard, and is kind.
    • Laurie says that Mr. Brooke really likes the March family and was flattered to be treated well by them. They treat him just like Laurie and don't make a big deal of the fact that the Laurences are wealthy and he's just their servant. Laurie says that one day he'll do something to help Mr. Brooke get along in life.
    • Meg says that Laurie could help Mr. Brooke now – by being a more diligent student! She can always tell how Laurie behaved by watching Mr. Brooke's face when he leaves the Laurence house.
    • Laurie is a little bit offended at Meg's nosiness and she apologizes to him. He apologizes also, saying that it's good to have the girls point out his flaws in a sisterly way.
    • Laurie continues to help the girls with their tasks until they hear the tea bell ring at the March house. The girls pack up their stuff to go home for the evening meal.
    • Laurie asks if he can join them again, and Meg says yes. Jo says she will teach him to knit socks.
    • That evening, Mr. Laurence sits listening to Beth play the piano, and Laurie watches them. He realizes that he is all his grandfather has, and resolves to forget his castle in the air and be a dutiful grandson.
  • Chapter 14

    Secrets

    • It is October, and Jo spends her afternoons sitting in the attic and writing. Finally, one day, she's finished with her manuscript!
    • Jo reads the manuscript all the way through one last time. Then she takes it and another manuscript from a box, pockets them, and leaves the house secretly. She takes the bus into town.
    • Jo comes to a busy street, but she can't quite bring herself to go into the door of the building. She tries three times, and each time ends up turning around and walking away. Finally, she forces herself to enter. One of the signs above the door is for a dentist's office. What she doesn't know is that a young man has been watching her the whole time.
    • The young man waits for Jo outside the office. She comes downstairs ten minutes later and he joins her as she walks away.
    • Laurie – the young man is, of course, Laurie – asks Jo questions, assuming that she just visited the dentist's office. He asks if she had any out, and she says that she has two she wants to come out.
    • Jo asks what Laurie has been doing downtown, and he says he was having a fencing lesson. She's glad that he wasn't playing billiards or drinking, which are considered improper for young men. She tells Laurie that her mother won't let Ned Moffat visit their house, even though he wants to, because he goes to saloons (the nineteenth-century equivalent of bars). (Remember, there's no drinking age at this period in history, so young men of Laurie's age can drink alcohol.)
    • Jo tells Laurie that she wants him to be honest and respectable and not gamble away money. Laurie starts to get tired of her lecture and tells her that he'll take the bus home instead of walking with her if she doesn't stop.
    • Jo agrees to stop lecturing. Laurie says that he will tell her an exciting secret that he knows – if she will tell him her secret. She wants to know how he realized she had a secret, and he says that she's terrible at hiding it.
    • Jo agrees and tells Laurie that she has just come from a newspaper office, where she left two stories to be considered for publication. Laurie's ready to celebrate, but Jo says that she hasn't heard back yet.
    • Laurie tells his secret: Meg's lost glove is in Mr. Brooke's pocket, being cherished with romantic hopes. (This is the glove that didn't get returned to Meg at the beginning of Chapter 12 – remember, Mr. Brooke sent her a translation of a German song and one of the gloves that she left behind at the Laurences' house.) Jo is disgusted by this and says that she doesn't want anyone to come and take Meg away from her.
    • Laurie says that Jo will feel different when someone takes her away someday. Jo says that she'd like to see anyone try it!
    • To avoid an argument, Laurie suggests that they race down the hill. They take off running, and Jo's hairpins fly out everywhere.
    • They reach the bottom of the hill. Jo is flushed and out of breath but having fun, and she sends Laurie back to pick up some things she dropped.
    • Meg arrives on the scene and discovers her sister flushed, panting, and disheveled. She's horrified at Jo's lack of propriety.
    • Meg and Jo argue about Jo's childish behavior. Jo says that she wants to stay a child as long as she can, and is about to say that Meg is becoming a woman all too soon. Laurie interrupts before she can start a fight.
    • Laurie asks where Meg has been. Meg says that she has been at the Gardiners' house, visiting Sallie and talking about Belle Moffat's wedding. Meg is just a tiny bit jealous.
    • For the next week, Jo behaves strangely – she's rude to Mr. Brooke and always excited to see the postman.
    • Meg continues to be embarrassed by Jo's rambunctious, childish behavior. One day, Meg, Beth and Amy are sitting inside, and they see Laurie and Jo go running by outside, holding newspapers and laughing.
    • Jo comes in and reads her sisters a story from the newspaper. Amy and Meg praise the story, and Beth asks who wrote it. Jo admits that she did!
    • Meg, Amy, and Beth insist on seeing Jo's name in print as the author of the story in the paper. They're very excited for her, and so are Mrs. March and Hannah.
    • Jo explains to her sisters that she didn't get paid for these stories, but they are good publicity for her. Soon she'll be able to earn money for the family by writing!
  • Chapter 15

    A Telegram

    • One frosty November afternoon, the March girls are sitting at home. Meg is feeling especially bitter about being poor and having to work hard. Jo and Amy try to comfort her and say they are going to make their fortunes as an author and an artist, but Meg says she doesn't have any faith in that plan. Beth tries to comfort Meg by pointing out that Laurie is coming over and Marmee just arrived home.
    • Laurie invites the girls to come with him while he drives Mr. Brooke home in the carriage. Everyone agrees except Meg, who is being very proper and trying not to go out too often with the young men. Laurie also agrees to go by the post office – the real one, not the box in the hedge between their houses – and check for letters from Mr. March.
    • They are interrupted by the doorbell. Hannah answers and receives a telegram from the postman.
    • Mrs. March snatches the telegram from Hannah and reads it. It says that her husband is very ill at a hospital in Washington and she needs to go there immediately.
    • The girls gather around their mother and many tears are shed. Hannah pulls herself together and begins packing a bag for Mrs. March.
    • Mrs. March asks Laurie to send a telegram in reply, saying that she will come right away – on the next train in the morning. She also asks him to take a note to Aunt March, telling her what has happened and asking to borrow money for the journey.
    • Next, Mrs. March sends Jo out to buy some things she might need for nursing their father back to health, just in case the hospital is running short. Beth is sent next door to ask Mr. Laurence for some bottles of wine. (Surprising True Fact: Wine was considered a good medicine for illness, injury, and shock in the nineteenth century.) Amy and Meg are given chores at home.
    • Beth comes back, bringing Mr. Laurence with her. He gives Mrs. March wine and everything else he can think of that she might need. He wants to escort her on the journey, but she won't let him because he's a bit too frail to travel.
    • Mr. Laurence sends Mr. Brooke to accompany Mrs. March instead. Meg, especially, is very grateful.
    • Almost everything has been done when Laurie returns with a note from Aunt March, which encloses the money Mrs. March will need, but also includes an "I told you so" letter.
    • Everyone has finished their preparations and they are getting ready to have tea (the evening meal), but Jo hasn't returned yet. They start to worry about her.
    • Jo comes home with $25 – a lot of money in those days! – which she says is her contribution to making her father comfortable. Everyone wonders where she got it until she takes off her bonnet – and reveals that she cut and sold her hair! (Historical Background Lesson: Nineteenth-century women always had long hair, so having short hair marks Jo as being especially poor and needy, and also eccentric. There was a market for hair to make wigs and hairpieces.)
    • Jo's family is surprised by her sacrifice, but Jo explains that she wanted to do something to help, and this was an honest way of earning money on her own.
    • Jo describes her experience at the hair salon. She was wandering around downtown, wondering what she could do for money, and then she saw hairpieces and wigs in the barber's window. She went in and asked if the barber would buy her hair.
    • The barber told Jo that her hair was an unfashionable color and that it was a lot of work to make the hairpieces. He wasn't going to buy her hair, but then she told the story about her father being sick in Washington, and the barber's wife convinced him to do her a favor.
    • Jo has saved one lock for her mother to keep. Her mother puts it beside another lock of hair, a gray one, that is already in the desk. (We're guessing this belongs to Mr. March?)
    • The girls try to be cheerful until bedtime. When they sing before bed, everyone breaks down crying.
    • As they go to bed, Beth and Amy fall asleep, but Meg lies awake. She hears Jo crying and asks if it's about their father – but Jo says it's about her hair!
    • Jo asks what Meg has been thinking about as she lay awake. Meg says that she was thinking about handsome, brown-eyed faces. (John Brooke, of course, has brown eyes.)
    • Finally Meg and Jo fall asleep, but their mother is still awake, roaming through the house kissing her daughters on their sleeping cheeks and praying.
  • Chapter 16

    Letters

    • In the morning, the girls' usual routine of reading their Bibles to start the day seems even more important and comforting than usual.
    • They eat breakfast very early. The girls try to be cheerful and strong for their mother, but they keep breaking down.
    • Mrs. March leaves with a few last words of encouragement for the girls. She tells them that Hannah will take care of them and Mr. Laurence will help and protect them, too. She reminds them to use everyday work as a source of comfort.
    • Mrs. March and Mr. Brooke leave in the carriage, and the girls, Hannah, Laurie, and Mr. Laurence all wave goodbye to them. Mrs. March is struck by how kind people are to her family, and Mr. Brooke laughs and says they can't help it.
    • After their mother is gone, the girls cry for a little bit. Then, Hannah insists that they drink some coffee and calm down.
    • Breakfast helps the girls feel calmer, and then Meg and Jo set out for their jobs as usual. Beth and Amy plan to do the housework under Hannah's direction.
    • Many letters are exchanged between Mrs. March in Washington and the family back home. The girls are pleased to learn that their father is doing better, although he is still in critical condition.
    • The rest of the chapter consists of a selection of the letters written while Mr. March is ill.
    • The first letter is from Meg to her mother. Meg reports on the good behavior and progress of each of her sisters, assures her mother that Hannah and Mr. Laurence are looking after them, and sends her love to her father.
    • The second letter is from Jo to her mother and sharply contrasts with Meg's letter. Jo describes Meg's attempts to be maternal and a fight that she had with Laurie. She encloses a poem about housework to amuse her father.
    • The third letter is from Beth, and it's short and sweet. Beth sends her father her love and also some pressed pansies, and assures her mother that she's doing all her duties at home.
    • The rest of the sheet with Beth's letter is covered with the fourth letter, which is from Amy. Amy's letter is full of misspellings and misused words, and she describes the little things that bother her, such as an obviously-mended dress and Laurie teasing her.
    • The next letter is from Hannah. Hannah's spelling and grammar are about as bad as Amy's, but she reports that Meg and Beth are fine housekeepers. Jo, Hannah says, is enthusiastic but always making funny mistakes, and Amy's doing OK.
    • The next letter is from Laurie. It's written as though it were a military situation report, and Laurie signs himself "Colonel Teddy."
    • The final letter is a short note from Mr. Laurence, saying that everything is going well and offering any help that Mr. March might need.
  • Chapter 17

    Little Faithful

    • For a week after Mrs. March goes to Washington, her daughters behave impeccably. They work hard and try to do everything perfectly.
    • However, after the first excitement, the girls begin neglecting their duties. Jo gets sick and has to stay home from Aunt March's, and then she falls into a pattern of reading and lying around. Amy stops doing housework and just experiments with art and sculpting. Meg starts to waste time reading the news over and over and writing long letters to her mother.
    • Beth alone keeps doing all her chores – in fact, she starts doing a lot of her sisters' chores, too.
    • When Mrs. March has been gone for ten days, Beth asks Meg to visit the Hummels. Mrs. March asked the girls to remember the poor family. Meg says she's too tired to go, and Jo says that she's too sick.
    • Meg tells Beth to go herself. Beth says that she has been going every day, but the baby is sick and she doesn't know how to take care of it.
    • Meg says she'll go tomorrow, or that Amy, who will be home soon, can go. Beth has a headache and is tired, so she lies down on the sofa.
    • An hour passes, but Amy doesn't come home. Jo is absorbed in her writing, Meg goes upstairs to try on a new dress, and Hannah falls asleep. Beth gets up and quietly goes out with a basket of things to take to the Hummels.
    • Beth comes home late and shuts herself into her mother's room. When Jo goes looking for something there, she finds Beth looking sad with red eyes.
    • Jo asks what's wrong. Beth asks her if she's had scarlet fever. Jo says yes, that she and Meg had it when they were little.
    • Beth tells Jo that the Hummels' baby died in her lap that afternoon. The doctor came and said that it was scarlet fever and sent Beth home.
    • Beth explains that she looked up scarlet fever in the family's medical dictionary and realized that she did have the first symptoms. She took some belladonna (a common home remedy) and says that she feels better.
    • Jo feels sure that Beth is going to get sick – she's spent every day with the sick baby for the last week. Beth warns her not to let Amy come home; unlike Meg and Jo, Amy hasn't had scarlet fever and would be susceptible.
    • Jo tells Hannah what is going on. Hannah sends for Dr. Bangs and decides that Amy will stay with Aunt March. Jo plans to stay home and nurse Beth while Meg continues working.
    • When Amy comes home and is told that she has to go away, she is very upset. Laurie walks into the house and finds her crying on the sofa.
    • Laurie promises Amy that, if she goes to Aunt March's and is good, he will come and visit her every day and take her driving or walking. Amy reluctantly agrees.
    • Meg and Jo are relieved that Laurie has convinced Amy to go to Aunt March's quietly.
    • Laurie asks Meg and Jo how Beth is doing. They tell him that she is lying down and seems to feel better.
    • Laurie asks if he should send a telegram to Mrs. March to tell her that Beth is sick. Jo and Meg aren't sure; they don't want to worry their mother and they don't know how sick Beth really is. They decide to consult the doctor first.
    • Laurie goes to get the doctor. Dr. Bangs arrives and says that she will probably have scarlet fever, but only "lightly."
    • Jo and Laurie take Amy to Aunt March's house. Aunt March agrees to look after Amy while Beth is sick.
    • Aunt March's parrot, Polly, keeps saying ridiculous things that amuse Amy, Laurie, and Jo – especially when Laurie pulls its tail.
    • Amy is depressed at the prospect of several weeks with Aunt March.
  • Chapter 18

    Dark Days

    • Beth comes down with scarlet fever and is extremely sick, but at first only Hannah and Dr. Bangs realize that the illness might be life-threatening.
    • Meg writes letters to her mother, who is still in Washington nursing Mr. March back to health. Meg doesn't tell her mother that Beth is sick.
    • Jo nurses Beth day and night. Beth gets sicker and sicker, and eventually doesn't recognize her and deliriously tries to play the piano while lying in bed.
    • Now that Beth is sick and might die, her sisters appreciate everything that she did to make their home pleasant and comfortable. Amy longs to go home and Meg and Jo realize how happy they really were before Beth's illness.
    • While Beth is conscious and aware of what's going on, she tries to comfort everyone around her. Then, she falls into a feverish, delirious state.
    • On December 1, after examining Beth, Dr. Bangs says that Mrs. March should be sent for. Jo sends a telegram to her mother.
    • On her way home, Jo meets Laurie, who has a letter from Mrs. March saying that Mr. March is getting better.
    • Jo tells Laurie how sick Beth is, and Laurie holds her and comforts her while she cries.
    • Jo composes herself a little. She tells Laurie that she will miss Beth the most of anyone in the family, because Beth is her conscience.
    • Laurie says that God won't take Beth yet. Jo isn't so sure.
    • Laurie brings Jo a glass of wine. (This is a common nineteenth-century behavior – drinking a little wine to steady your nerves. We don't recommend it.)
    • Laurie tells Jo that he sent Mrs. March a telegram secretly yesterday, asking her to come home because he was worried about Beth. Mrs. March is going to arrive this evening!
    • Jo is very grateful and hugs Laurie, laughing hysterically.
    • Laurie explains that he and his grandfather decided it was time that Mrs. March should be informed of Beth's illness, but they didn't want to worry anyone, so Laurie sent the message on his own own.
    • Jo asks how she can thank Laurie. Laurie says that she should hug him again. Jo refuses and goes downstairs.
    • Jo tells Hannah and Meg that Marmee will be there that evening. They are excited and relieved, and they make preparations for her arrival.
    • The doctor comes to look at Beth again and says that her condition will change, for good or ill, by midnight.
    • Meg, Jo, Hannah, Mr. Laurence, and Laurie wait at Beth's bedside, watching and waiting. Hannah falls asleep. The girls pray to God to save Beth's life.
    • As Meg and Jo watch, Beth's face does seem to change around the stroke of midnight. They think she is dying.
    • At two a.m., Jo thinks Beth might actually be dead, and leans closer to kiss her goodbye. She sees that Beth has a better color and is breathing normally! Hannah wakes up and says that Beth's fever has broken and she is going to recover. The doctor arrives and confirms what Hannah has said.
    • Meg puts a newly-bloomed white rose in a vase beside Beth's bedside. As the girls wait, they hear the bells of a carriage from below, and realize that Mrs. March is home!
  • Chapter 19

    Amy's Will

    • While her sisters are nursing Beth, Amy is suffering under the strict rules of Aunt March's house. Aunt March does love Amy, but she doesn't really show it. She tries to improve Amy's character by making her follow a harsh routine, including lots of housework, lessons, reading aloud to Aunt March, and listening to long lectures.
    • Amy is sustained by her friendship with Laurie, who comes to visit her regularly, and the kindness of Aunt March's maid Esther.
    • Even Aunt March's pets irritate Amy – the parrot pulls her hair and calls her names, and the little dog barks at her.
    • Esther, the maid, is Amy's only friend in the house. Her real name is Estelle, and she is a French Catholic – Aunt March, like many nineteenth-century English and American employers, forces her foreign servants to adopt English names.
    • Esther tells Amy stories about her homeland and shows Amy the jewelry and other treasures that Aunt March has gathered over the years.
    • One day, Esther asks Amy which piece of Aunt March's jewelry she would choose, if she could have one. Amy chooses a string of gold and ebony beads, and Esther explains that it is actually a rosary – used by Catholics for saying prayers.
    • Esther and Amy talk about the comfort of prayer. Esther offers to set up a little chapel for Amy in a spare room of Aunt March's mansion.
    • Amy asks Esther who will get Aunt March's jewelry when she dies. Esther says that, in her will, Aunt March has left the jewelry to Amy and her sisters.
    • Amy wishes she could have some of Aunt March's jewelry now. Esther shows her a turquoise ring and tells her that Aunt March is planning to give it to her when she goes back home as a reward for her good behavior.
    • Amy tries harder to be good and obedient to Aunt March in order to earn the turquoise ring.
    • Esther sets up a little chapel for Amy, using a portrait of Mary with the baby Jesus that was stored away in the house. Amy adds a vase of flowers, her copy of the New Testament, her hymnbook, and a rosary that Esther gave her. She doesn't use the rosary because she's Protestant, but she hangs it in the room.
    • Amy tries to use her little chapel and her prayers to replace her mother's influence and advice. She becomes more religious and draws closer to God, even though she's just a little girl.
    • Amy starts thinking about what will happen if she gets scarlet fever and dies. With Esther's help, she writes a will of her own.
    • One day, as Amy is playing dress-up with some of Aunt March's clothes, Laurie comes in to see her. Amy puts the clothes away and tells Laurie about the will. She asks him to sign it as a witness.
    • Laurie, doing his best not to laugh at Amy, reads her will. She has left some of her possessions to her father, mother, sisters, Laurie, Mr. Laurence, Hannah, and her friend Kitty Bryant.
    • Laurie asks Amy what made her write the will, and tells her that Beth has given her possessions away already.
    • As Laurie signs Amy's will as a witness, she adds an additional bequest – that her curls should be cut off and one given to each of her family and friends.
    • Amy asks Laurie if Beth is really in danger of dying. Laurie says that she is and tries to comfort Amy.
    • After Laurie leaves, Amy goes to her chapel and prays for Beth.
  • Chapter 20

    Confidential

    • Meg, Jo, and Beth have an emotional reunion with their mother. Mrs. March stays with Beth, holding her hand, overnight.
    • In the morning, Hannah serves a fancy breakfast to celebrate Mrs. March's return. As they eat, Mrs. March tells Jo and Meg about their father's improving health and Mr. Brooke's kindness.
    • The day progresses. Jo and Meg feel much better now that their mother is in charge. Mrs. March stays at Beth's bedside throughout the day.
    • Laurie goes to Aunt March's to tell Amy that her mother has returned. As he is describing Beth's illness and the other events of the last day, he falls asleep on Aunt March's couch.
    • Laurie is woken by the arrival of Mrs. March, who comes to see Amy. Amy is overjoyed to be reunited with her mother.
    • Amy shows her mother the chapel that Esther helped her make. Her mother approves of it.
    • Amy also shows her mother the turquoise ring, which she is now wearing – Aunt March gave it to her just recently. Her mother objects and says that she is too young for such fancy jewelry, and Amy explains that she also values the ring because it reminds her not to be selfish.
    • Mrs. March returns home to look after Beth. While she is at Beth's bedside, Jo comes and tell her that John Brooke has kept one of Beth's gloves as a memento. Jo is outraged by this and wants her mother to stop him.
    • Mrs. March asks Jo if she thinks Meg cares for John Brooke. Jo says that she doesn't know and isn't any good with romantic issues.
    • Mrs. March tells Jo that, while she was in Washington, John Brooke confessed to her and Mr. March that he loved Meg, and asked for their permission to court her. They agreed, because they were impressed with his hard-working demeanor and his good morals.
    • Jo says that she wishes she could marry Meg herself and keep the family together.
    • Mrs. March makes Jo promise that she won't talk about this to Meg.
    • Jo thinks back on some of the things Meg has said and realizes that Meg does seem to be falling in love with John Brooke. Jo feels frustrated by this.
    • Mrs. March sighs and admits that she will miss Meg after she gets married and leaves the family. She says that she and Mr. March have agreed that Meg shouldn't get married before she's 20. (At this point, Meg is 17.)
    • Jo asks her mother if Meg should try to marry a rich man instead of John Brooke. Her mother says that wealth is valuable, but not as valuable as good character and happiness.
    • Jo suggests that Meg should marry Laurie. Her mother doesn't think they are suited for each other.
    • Meg comes in and interrupts the discussion. Jo goes to bed.
    • Meg shows her mother a letter that she has written to her father. Mrs. March asks her to add a p.s. sending her (Mrs. March's) love to John. Meg is innocently surprised and pleased to discover that her mother and John Brooke are on first-name terms!
    • Meg kisses her mother and goes to bed. Mrs. March thinks to herself that Meg will soon be in love with John Brooke.
  • Chapter 21

    Laurie Makes Mischief and Jo Makes Peace

    • Jo keeps the promise she has made to her mother and doesn't discuss John Brooke with Meg. Meg can tell that Jo is keeping a secret, but doesn't know what it is.
    • Laurie can also tell that Meg is keeping a secret. He teases and pesters Jo, and he figures out that it is something about John and Meg, but she still won't tell him the details. He decides to have his revenge with a prank.
    • Meg seems to have forgotten the matter entirely, although Jo thinks she can detect signs of lovesickness.
    • One day, Jo delivers the notes from the little "Post Office" between the houses. Meg receives a sealed note that makes her exclaim and blush.
    • Meg says to herself that it – whatever "it" is – is all a mistake, and "he" didn't send the note after all. She's very upset and blames Jo for something.
    • Jo and Mrs. March ask Meg to explain. She shows them a note signed with John Brooke's name, confessing his passion for her and asking her how she feels about him.
    • Jo swears that she didn't write this note or play a trick on Meg.
    • Mrs. March asks Meg if she answered this first note. Meg says that she did, and that she said that she was too young to think about getting attached, and that she didn't want to hide anything from her parents, and that he should talk to her father.
    • Mrs. March is pleased with Meg's modest response and tells her that she did the right thing.
    • Meg tells her mother and Jo that the second note, also signed by John Brooke, says that he didn't send her any love letter and thinks that Jo must have forged it.
    • Meg is in despair, but when Jo examines the two notes, she thinks that they are both forgeries by Laurie and that John Brooke doesn't know anything about it.
    • Mrs. March sends Jo to get Laurie. While she is gone, Mrs. March tells Meg that John has asked for permission to court her, and inquires about Meg's feelings.
    • Meg says that the prank has made her scared and worried, and she can't think about having a lover at this point.
    • When Jo comes back with Laurie, Meg goes to her room. Jo waits in the hall as Mrs. March spends a long time talking to Laurie, making him realize how cruel the prank really was, and how much mischief it could have caused.
    • When Jo and Meg are called back into the room, Laurie apologizes to Meg and promises not to tell anyone else about the prank.
    • Meg forgives Laurie, but Jo doesn't. Laurie is hurt and goes home with his nose in the air.
    • Jo decides to go over to the Laurences' to tell Laurie that she forgives him. She finds out from the servants that Mr. Laurence and Laurie had a fight.
    • Jo goes to see Laurie, who tells her that he fought with his grandfather because he couldn't reveal the reason Mrs. March was angry with him – doing so would have broken his promise to Meg not to tell anyone.
    • Laurie says he wants to run away. For one crazy moment, he and Jo consider running away together and having adventures, and then Jo reminds him that he needs to stay with his grandfather and she has duties at home.
    • Jo goes to see Mr. Laurence and explains that Laurie has already atoned for his bad behavior, and that he's keeping a secret to protect someone else. Mr. Laurence agrees to trust Laurie and not ask again about what happened.
    • Jo gets Mr. Laurence to write a note in which he apologizes to Laurie. Jo takes the note to Laurie and encourages him to turn over a new leaf.
    • Everyone forgets about the prank except Meg, who does start to have romantic daydreams abut John Brooke.
  • Chapter 22

    Pleasant Meadows

    • Beth gets better and can actually move from her room and lie on the sofa in the living room.
    • Beth's sisters continue to care for her.
    • Amy returns home from Aunt March's house.
    • The family receives news that Mr. March is also getting better and might come home soon.
    • Jo and Laurie come up with all kinds of crazy plans to celebrate Christmas.
    • Christmas Day is wonderful – Beth is mostly better, Mr. March is going to be home soon, and Jo and Laurie make a snow sculpture just outside the window to amuse Beth. In the mouth of the snow maiden is a scroll, and on the scroll is a song about Beth written to the tune of a Christmas carol by Jo.
    • Unlike the previous Christmas, each sister has a gift that she really wanted – Meg has a new silk dress, Jo has the book she wanted last year, and Amy has a print of the painting that she fell in love with at Aunt March's. Even Marmee has a gift – a brooch that incorporates locks of hair from all four girls. (Hair jewelry was a popular keepsake in the nineteenth century – remember, photographs were rare and expensive.)
    • Beth says that she just wishes she could have her father back. Just as she says so, Laurie comes in with another "present" – Mr. March, just arrived home, accompanied by John Brooke.
    • Everyone hugs and kisses and greets each other. Even Beth gets up and runs to give her father a hug.
    • After a comic interlude in which they find Hannah behind the door, crying over the turkey she forgot to leave in the kitchen, Mr. March and Beth sit down.
    • Mr. March tells the family about his journey and about John Brooke's kindness.
    • The family sits down and has a wonderful Christmas dinner. John Brooke, Mr. Laurence, and Laurie all eat with them.
    • The girls talk about the contrast between their previous Christmas – remember it, back in Chapter 1? – and this Christmas.
    • Mr. March comments on the change in each girl's demeanor. He notices that Meg is no longer so vain and works harder, that Jo is more feminine, that Amy is less selfish, and that Beth is less shy.
    • Beth thinks about Pilgrim's Progress, especially about the part where Christian, the allegorical main character, gets to rest in a beautiful meadow in the middle of his pilgrimage.
    • The chapter ends with Beth playing the piano and singing a hymn to the family.
  • Chapter 23

    Aunt March Settles the Question

    • The March girls, their mother, and Hannah look after Mr. March, whom they are very excited to have at home. However, everyone seems to be waiting for something else to happen.
    • In the afternoon, Laurie comes by. When he sees Meg, he goes down on one knee in front of her and pretends to have a lover's fit, beating his breast and tearing out his hair. Meg doesn't understand what he means, but Jo explains that he's imitating the way John Brooke is going to behave soon – when he proposes!
    • Meg tells Jo that she doesn't care about John Brooke...much. Jo says that the whole family can tell they are in love; she's disgusted with the whole thing.
    • Meg tells Jo to stop talking about it; she can't do anything herself anyway, since the man has to propose. It is the 1800s, after all.
    • Jo asks Meg how she would respond if John Brooke asked her to marry him. Meg says that she would refuse, saying that she was too young to get engaged. Jo is very pleased by this and makes Meg promise that she'll turn John down.
    • Just then, John Brooke comes by to get his umbrella, which he accidentally left at the Marches' house. The two sisters look startled and guilty when he comes in. He gets confused and asks to speak to Mr. March.
    • Jo leaves so that Meg can turn John down in private. Meg asks John to sit down and says that her mother would like to see him.
    • John asks Meg if she's afraid of him. She says she couldn't be because he has been so kind to their father. She gives John her hand and says that she wishes she knew how to repay him.
    • John holds Meg's hand firmly and tells her that he knows a great way for her to repay his kindness.
    • Meg becomes flustered and bashful. John asks whether she cares for him. Instead of making the speech that she discussed with Jo, Meg says that she doesn't know.
    • John woos Meg and tells her how much he cares for her. She says that she's too young, and John says he's willing to wait.
    • As they are talking, Meg looks up and catches sight of John's expression. He looks very sure of himself, and Meg is a little offended by his confidence. She starts to behave more coyly and tells him to go away and leave her alone.
    • John is surprised and hurt, and asks whether she really means it. She says that she does.
    • John asks Meg not to play with him, and says he's willing to wait while she sorts out her feelings, for a long time if necessary. She tells him not to think about her.
    • John and Meg stand there looking at each other for a moment. Meg starts to feel bad about how she is treating John.
    • Suddenly, Aunt March comes in and surprises them. John Brooke tactfully ducks into the next room while Aunt March demands to know what's going on.
    • Meg tells Aunt March that the visitor is John Brooke, a friend of her father. Aunt March recognizes the name; she knows that John Brooke is Laurie's tutor and that he is interested in Meg.
    • Aunt March tells Meg that, if she marries John Brooke, she will disinherit her.
    • Meg is offended and tells Aunt March that she will marry whomever she likes.
    • Aunt March tells Meg that it is her duty to marry a rich man and help her family. Aunt March also suggests that John Brooke probably wants to marry her because he's heard that Aunt March is wealthy and thinks Meg, as the oldest niece, might inherit a fortune.
    • Now Meg is really offended, and she tells Aunt March that neither she nor John would ever marry for money. She says that they're not afraid to work hard and they intend to wait and have a long engagement.
    • Meg gets carried away describing how great John Brooke is, how hard he works, how smart he is, and how likely he is to succeed. Apparently she does like him quite a bit!
    • Aunt March is angry and says that she washes her hands of the affair. She tells Meg that she's not going to inherit anything from her and storms out.
    • John comes back into the room. He tells Meg that he couldn't help overhearing what she said, and he's delighted to find out that she does care for him. Meg says she didn't know how much she cared until Aunt March started insulting him.
    • A little bit later, it is quiet in the room. Jo, assuming that John has left after being turned down by Meg, comes into the room to gloat with her sister. But what she sees is Meg sitting on John's knee!
    • John asks Jo to congratulate them. Jo runs out of the room and tells her parents that John is acting "dreadfully."
    • Mr. and Mrs. March go downstairs to find out what's happening. They have a private conversation with John and Meg in the parlor, in which John convinces them that he has responsible plans for making a home for himself and Meg.
    • John stays and has tea (an early evening meal, like an early dinner) with the family. Everyone is excited except Jo.
    • Over the meal, the family talk about how much has happened to them this year.
    • John says that he and Meg are going to work and wait for three years before they get married. Well, he'll do most of the working, and she'll do most of the waiting, but you get the idea.
    • Laurie comes in with a large bouquet for Meg and congratulates the couple. Jo assumes that Laurie, like herself, will feel un-romantic about the whole thing, but Laurie's actually very excited and says that he knew John would win Meg over.
    • Old Mr. Laurence comes in and the family greets him.
    • Laurie asks Jo why she looks upset. She says she's not happy about the match, but she's trying to be polite about it. She feels like she's lost her best friend.
    • Laurie tells Jo that he will always be there for her. She says that's comforting.
    • Laurie wonders where they will all be in three years' time.
    • As the chapter (and the first volume) ends, the entire extended family is gathered together. Mr. and Mrs. March are reliving their past. Amy is sketching John and Meg, who are sitting together. Beth is lying on the sofa, talking with old Mr. Laurence. Jo is sitting and talking to Laurie, who is leaning on the back of her chair. It's pure domestic bliss!
  • Chapter 24

    Gossip

    • Three years have passed since the last chapter. The Civil War is over and Mr. March is at home permanently.
    • Mr. March spends his time quietly studying his books, but he's also a resource for everyone in the community. People come to him to confess their problems and ask for guidance. Even though his wife and four daughters are the most active, he's still the wise head of the household.
    • Mrs. March is a little older and spends most of her time helping Meg, who is getting ready for her wedding.
    • John Brooke has served in the army for a year, gotten wounded, and been sent home as an invalid. He works hard as a bookkeeper for Mr. Laurence and starts building a metaphorical nest egg to support Meg.
    • Meg has spent the three years learning to be an even better housewife. She's a little jealous of Sallie Gardiner and Ned Moffat, who have gotten married and are busy being rich and idle together, but she's also very excited to move into a little cottage with John.
    • Amy replaces Jo as Aunt March's companion. Jo spends her time writing for newspapers and taking care of Beth, who remains sickly.
    • Laurie is in college, where he has a lot of friends and doesn't work all that hard. He lives a crazy college-kid life, but his friendship with the March family keeps him honest and moral.
    • Laurie often brings his college friends home. Amy and Jo like them a lot – Amy because she can be the only pretty girl in a big group of guys who fawn over her, and Jo because she feels like one of the guys.
    • John Brooke has prepared a little cottage as his first home with Meg. The family calls it "The Dovecote" – it was pretty typical for people to name their houses in the nineteenth century.
    • The Dovecote is a tiny little house with a very small yard, and John and the March girls do most of the interior decorating themselves, but it's even more beautiful because it has a personal touch.
    • Laurie tries to help by buying the latest labor-saving household inventions. This is a source of much comic relief and everyone laughs at the weird stuff he finds.
    • Finally, the entire house is furnished and everything is arranged perfectly. Mrs. March and Meg walk through it one last time to make sure that Meg is happy with it.
    • Amy wishes that Meg could have a servant – most upper- and middle-class families did at this time in history because there was so much housework to do. Meg says that she and her mother have talked about it and she's going to try keeping house on her own first. They both think that staying idle is morally wrong.
    • Mrs. March says that when she was first married, she used to wish her clothes would tear so that she could do something useful and mend them. Finally she started working in the kitchen and had Hannah teach her how to cook. Then, when the Marches lost their money, she was able to start doing more household tasks. Even if Meg and John get rich, she says, it's good to know how things are done.
    • The girls take a look at Meg's linen closet, which is stocked full of lots of fancy table cloths, sheets, napkins, and so on. They all laugh about it, because the linen is all from Aunt March, but she made Aunt Carrol give the gift so that she wouldn't look like she had gone back on her promise that she wouldn't give Meg any money if she married John Brooke.
    • Laurie arrives at the cottage. He gives Meg a package and greets each of the girls in his own way. He says that John has stopped to get the marriage license.
    • Meg unwraps the package and finds a watchman's rattle – a loud noisemaker to call help if you get frightened or attacked. Laurie swings it around to make it rattle and everyone laughs and has to cover their ears.
    • Laurie wants everyone to leave the cottage and go eat something. Meg and Mrs. March are staying there to wait for John and Amy and Beth are going to see Amy's friend Kitty to get flowers for the wedding. Jo and Laurie walk home together on their own.
    • Jo makes Laurie promise to behave himself at the wedding and not pull any practical jokes or say anything rude. Laurie just laughs at her worries.
    • Jo can tell that something is bothering Laurie and asks what it is. Laurie says he needs to ask his grandfather for money because he runs out. Jo says that he is too generous to his friends – apparently he gave a bunch of money to a poor friend who was struggling in college.
    • Jo says that Laurie spends too much money on fancy clothes. Laurie laughs and tells her to stop lecturing.
    • Laurie tells Jo that one of his friends is in love with Amy. Jo says that they don't want any more marrying in the family anytime soon. Laurie says Jo will be next, and she says that she's going to be an old maid.
    • Laurie says Jo won't give anyone the chance to love her. Jo says that she's too busy for romantic nonsense and doesn't like the way weddings break up families.
    • Laurie repeats to himself that Jo will be next to get married.
  • Chapter 25

    The First Wedding

    • On the morning of Meg's wedding day, the roses are blooming and the weather is beautiful.
    • Meg also looks like a blooming rose, but she's not wearing a fancy dress. She says that she wants to be herself at her wedding, so she makes a simple gown by hand and wears flowers in her hair.
    • Meg hugs each of her sisters one last time and then goes to tie John's cravat (like a tie, but fancier) for him.
    • The narrator pauses to describe how different the girls look after three years have passed. Jo is less clumsy, more gentle and feminine, and her hair is long again. Beth is thin and pale and even quieter than before. Amy is sixteen and extremely graceful and lovely, the prettiest of the four sisters. They're all wearing silver-gray dresses for the wedding with blue roses in their hair.
    • The whole wedding is very casual – they're putting up the decorations themselves and even the bride and bridegroom are doing chores. Aunt March is scandalized and thinks that Meg ought to hide so that nobody sees her until the wedding starts.
    • They don't even have a bridal procession – everyone gets quiet for a moment as Mr. March, who is performing the ceremony, and Meg and John take their places under an arch of greenery. The vows are simple and everyone is very emotional.
    • As soon as Meg is married, she declares that she's going to give her first kiss to her mother, and does. Then everyone is giving everyone else hugs and kisses.
    • After the ceremony, everyone has a simple meal. There's no alcohol – Laurie is confused, because he knows his grandfather sent over some bottles of wine, but Meg reminds him that her family thinks wine should only be used medicinally.
    • Laurie says that he actually agrees, because he's seen a lot of harm done by excessive drinking. Meg asks him to promise never to drink again, and he does.
    • After eating, everyone strolls around and chats. Laurie comes up with an idea to end the ceremony and arranges everyone in a folksy German wedding dance.
    • After the dance, people begin to go home. Aunt March leaves, prophesying doom and reminding John that his new wife is a treasure.
    • Sallie and Ned Moffat are surprised by how nice the wedding was, even though it wasn't stylish or fancy.
    • Mr. Laurence hints to Laurie that he should marry one of the March girls, and Laurie agrees.
    • Meg and John make the short journey to their new cottage nearby and say goodbye to her parents. Meg promises to remain close to her parents and sisters.
  • Chapter 26

    Artistic Attempts

    • The narrator tells us that it takes people a long time to learn the difference between talent and genius, and Amy is learning it the hard way.
    • Amy tries every kind of art, from clay sculpture to pen-and-ink drawing to woodburning, then oil painting, and then charcoal portraits, and finally sketching. Each art form ends in hilarity or disaster.
    • Amy is patient and persevering, but it doesn't seem like she's really cut out to be a great artist. However, she's also becoming a graceful, accomplished woman; everyone likes her, and she always seems to say the right thing.
    • Amy's biggest flaw is that she tries to be a social climber. She confuses money, power, and aristocracy with real values and principles.
    • One day, Amy asks her mother if she can invite the girls from her drawing class over to her house for lunch and an opportunity to sketch the countryside.
    • Mrs. March agrees and suggests a modest menu. Amy insists that the girls, who are mostly more wealthy than her family, have to have a really fancy meal.
    • Mrs. March asks how many girls there are in the group, and Amy says around a dozen, but she thinks only half of them will come.
    • Mrs. March thinks it will be too expensive, but Amy has everything planned out and has saved her own money so that she can pay for it.
    • Mrs. March still thinks it's a mistake to throw a party beyond their means, but she decides to let Amy learn by experience.
    • Meg agrees to help Amy. Jo refuses at first, but finally Amy convinces her that she's defying convention just for the sake of being different, and she agrees to help.
    • They send out the invitations, and almost all the girls accept.
    • Hannah is cranky because the preparations for the lunch interfere with her regular household routine.
    • Everything seems to go wrong: Hannah's cooking turns out badly, things are more expensive than Amy thought they would be, Beth is sick, Meg is busy, and Jo keeps breaking things.
    • Amy has told the girls to come on Monday, and if the weather is bad on Monday to come on Tuesday instead. On Monday, the weather is drizzly and nobody shows up.
    • On Tuesday, the food is getting a little stale and Amy's also tired of the idea.
    • Tuesday morning, Mr. March comes in and says he wasn't able to buy a lobster, so they'll have to go without salad. Amy goes into town herself to get one.
    • Buying a lobster is a pretty low-class errand and Amy doesn't want to be seen doing it, so she carries a big basket with a lid and covers her face with a veil.
    • Amy gets her lobster and takes the bus home. There is only one other passenger, an old lady, so Amy takes off her veil.
    • At the next stop, one of Laurie's college friends, Tudor, gets on the bus. He recognizes Amy and sits by her to chat.
    • Amy ignores the basket with the lobster while she talks to Tudor. Unfortunately, when the old lady gets off the bus, she knocks the basket over and the lobster falls out.
    • Tudor thinks the lobster must belong to the old lady and starts to hand it back to her. Amy blushes and explains that it's hers.
    • Tudor makes a polite comment about what a fine lobster it is, and Amy saves the day by joking that Tudor probably wants to see the girls who are going to eat it.
    • Amy finally gets home, although her dress has been damaged by the lobster's dressing. She gets everything ready by noon.
    • Finally, Amy orders Mr. Laurence's carriage and goes to meet her guests. But as Mrs. March watches at the window for them coming back, they discover that only one girl has come!
    • Jo and Beth help Hannah clear some of the place settings, so that it won't look too ridiculous when there's only one guest.
    • Amy entertains her only guest, Miss Elliot, calmly and politely, and her family helps her as best they can. Finally, the party is over.
    • Amy comes home alone. Her family tries to be polite and don't mention any of the problems.
    • The Marches sit down to eat – dinner, of course, is some of the leftovers from the party. Finally Amy gives up and decides not to make her family eat leftovers for days, and sends the food to the Hummel family.
    • Amy starts to tear up, and Jo admits that it was pretty funny that only one girl came. Mrs. March tries to be comforting.
    • Amy says that she is satisfied – she did what she meant to do. She asks her family not to mention the episode.
    • Nobody brings it up for a few months, but Laurie gives Amy a coral lobster charm for her birthday!
  • Chapter 27

    Literary Lessons

    • Jo is spending time working on her novel. Whenever she gets a writing fit, she shuts herself up in her room and writes, ignoring everything else going on around her.
    • One day, Jo goes with a family friend, Miss Crocker, to attend a lecture on ancient Egypt.
    • Jo and Miss Crocker arrive early for the lecture, and Jo spends her time people-watching. Beside her, a young boy is sitting reading a melodramatic-looking paper.
    • The boy offers to let Jo read the story he has. She accepts, and finds that the story is a sensational romp involving love, mystery, and murder.
    • Jo gives the boy back his paper. He thinks the story is wonderful, but she thinks that she could do just as well. The boy tells her that the author, whose pseudonym is "Mrs. S. L. A. N. G. Northbury," makes a good living writing stories like that.
    • The lecture begins, but Jo can hardly pay attention to the speaker's description of ancient Egypt. She's busy writing down the address of the paper, which is offering a $100 prize for the best short story.
    • The next day, Jo begins writing the most sensational story she can think of. Her mother is a little disturbed by her obsessive writing.
    • Jo waits for six weeks, keeping her submission a secret. One day, she receives a letter saying that she has won the prize. A check for $100 is enclosed!
    • Jo tells her family about the prize and shows them the check. Everyone is excited, except for her father, who tells her that she can do better.
    • Jo's sisters ask what she is going to do with the money. She says she is going to send Beth and Marmee to the seaside for a month to help Beth get well.
    • Beth and Marmee go on the holiday that Jo pays for. Both of them seem much healthier and happier when they return from their vacation.
    • Jo keeps writing sensational stories and using her earnings to pay the family's bills and buy things they need.
    • Jo feels proud of her hard work and satisfied by the knowledge that she can help provide for herself and her loved ones.
    • One day, having finished her novel, Jo decides to try and get it published as well. After sending the manuscript to several publishers, one of them agrees to publish it – if Jo will cut it by one-third.
    • Jo asks her family what they think. Her father advises her to wait, polish the novel herself, and perhaps publish it as a whole one day. Her mother advises her to publish, even if she has to abridge, so that she can get feedback from reviewers.
    • Jo's sisters have equally divergent opinions. Meg thinks the novel is perfect and that Jo shouldn't change it at all. Amy thinks that Jo should do whatever the editor says, since he knows what will sell. Beth just wants to see it published soon.
    • Jo decides to publish the novel. She cuts it down one-third, but since she tries to take everyone's advice about what to leave in and what to take out, the result is a mess.
    • Jo is paid $300 for her novel. Her reviews are mixed, and she can't decide which of the criticisms are helpful and which are just silly. Now she wishes that she had published the novel whole or not at all; she thinks she's been misjudged.
    • Jo's family comforts her, and she comes out of the episode ready to try another novel – someday.
  • Chapter 28

    Domestic Experiences

    • At first, Meg tries to make her home with John Brooke a perfect domestic paradise. She's so anxious to please, however, that it's also very stressful.
    • However, Meg and John are very happy, and they stay happy even after the honeymoon period, when their relationship has a more everyday quality.
    • Meg goes through different cooking fits – sometimes she tries to make lots of fancy food; other times she feels economical and makes really inexpensive, frugal meals.
    • Meg decides to try and save money by making her own jelly with the currants that grow on her bushes. She has John buy extra sugar and a bunch of little pots.
    • One day while John is at work, Meg sets to work trying to make the currant jelly. She's never actually done it herself before – she's only watched Hannah. Somehow, she can't re-create the process. She makes a sticky fruit mess, but the jelly won't set – it remains liquid.
    • Meg wishes she could run home and ask her mother for help, but she and John agreed a long time ago that they wouldn't bother other people with their domestic problems. At 5:00, she gives up on the jelly and sits down and cries at the kitchen table.
    • At the beginning of their marriage, Meg told John that he should always feel free to bring friends home to dinner with him. He has taken her up on the offer today and brought his friend Mr. Scott – without giving Meg advance notice.
    • When John and Mr. Scott arrive at the Dovecote, the house is dark and locked and looks completely inhospitable. John asks Mr. Scott to wait in the yard while he finds out what's wrong.
    • John goes around back and finds Meg in the kitchen, surrounded by a sticky jelly mess, crying. The hired girl, Lotty, is calmly eating bread and drinking currant wine.
    • John asks Meg what's going on, and she explains about the jelly disaster. He laughs it off and tells her to pull herself together so they can entertain their dinner guest.
    • Meg is horrified by the presence of Mr. Scott and tells John there's no way she can entertain someone. She tells John to take Mr. Scott over to her mother's house for dinner instead.
    • Meg retreats to her bedroom to lament her domestic disaster on her own. When she comes downstairs later, she's horrified to discover that John and Mr. Scott basically had a picnic in the house. Now they've strolled away – John is walking Mr. Scott home.
    • Meg longs to go and tell her mother what happened, but she's ashamed of her failure, so she keeps it to herself. She dresses up and waits for John to come home.
    • When John comes back, both he and Meg feel like the other person should apologize first. They are polite but cold to each other.
    • As Meg sits sewing and John looks out the window, she remembers that her mother cautioned her against waking John's temper. The Marches tend to be hot-tempered and their anger blows over quickly, but John is different – once he's angry, he's angry for a long time.
    • Meg goes over to John and kisses him on the forehead. This is enough to break the ice, and John apologizes for laughing at her problems with the jelly.
    • Later, Meg and John have Mr. Scott over for a nice dinner – at which Meg serves a wonderful meal and there are no tears anywhere!
    • In the fall, Meg develops a different domestic problem. She and Sallie Moffat start hanging out a lot again, and Meg envies Sallie's wealth and all her nice things. John has always trusted Meg with their money, and she's never abused that trust. But now she starts buying lots of things she doesn't need.
    • John is busy and doesn't balance the household books for a few months. When he gets to the end of the fiscal quarter, though, he needs to go over everything.
    • Meg's most extravagant purchase is a length of silvery silk for $50. (Remember, the dollar was worth a lot more in the nineteenth century – this would be like buying the materials for a wedding gown today.) The worst part is that the silk is just a length of material; it hasn't even been made into a dress yet!
    • John is appalled to discover how much money Meg has frittered away. He doesn't yell at her or get angry, though; he's just quietly upset, which is almost worse.
    • Meg tries to make excuses for her behavior, talking about how difficult it is to watch Sallie spend money while she is poor. John gets very quiet and Meg is ashamed that she reproached him for their poverty when he works so hard.
    • Because Meg has spent so much money on the silk, John can't get a new winter coat this year.
    • The next day, Meg goes to Sallie and tells her the whole story, and asks her to buy the silk as a favor. Sallie is only too happy to help.
    • Meg uses the money to get a new coat made for John. When it arrives, she tries it on and asks how he likes her new silk dress!
    • Things go on happily for a while. The next summer, Laurie comes into the Dovecote on a Saturday afternoon and is greeted by Hannah, who asks him to wait downstairs. Hmm, what could be going on here?
    • Jo comes downstairs with a little bundle – Meg's newborn baby! She makes Laurie close his eyes while she hands him his "nephew."
    • When Laurie opens his eyes, he finds himself holding two babies instead of one! The assembled family laugh at his surprise when he realizes Meg has had twins.
    • Jo explains that the babies are a boy and a girl. She and Laurie discuss names – the boy is going to be called John Laurence, after his father and the Laurence family, and the girl is going to be called Margaret, after her mother and grandmother. (This is the first time we've learned for sure that Marmee's first name is Margaret.) They will call the girl Daisy (a common nickname for Margaret at the time) so that there's no confusion.
    • Laurie proposes calling the boy "Demijohn" so that the twins can go by "Daisy" and "Demi." Everyone thinks this is a great idea, and the little twin Brookes are known by those names from now on.
  • Chapter 29

    Calls

    • Amy reminds Jo that she has promised to make six calls with her today. (Historical Context Lesson: it was a common nineteenth-century practice for the middle and upper classes, especially the women, to "call on" one another. These "calls" were formal visits during which gossip was the main pastime. They took place at specific times of day, often mid-morning, and everyone knew that they should be ready to receive visitors at those times. If someone called on you, it was polite to return the call within a certain period of time, so Amy has a mental list of friends and neighbors to whom the Marches "owe" return calls.)
    • Jo really doesn't want to make the calls, but Amy insists that they had a deal – she finished a sketch of Beth for Jo, and Jo promised to help her call on their neighbors.
    • Jo reluctantly agrees to accompany Amy, puts her sewing aside, and picks up her hat and gloves. Amy is distressed to learn that Jo intends to call on people wearing old, casual clothes. She wheedles her sister into getting dressed properly.
    • Jo obeys Amy's instructions about what to wear and how to do her hair. Amy makes sure that both of them look absolutely perfect before they leave the house.
    • Amy and Jo finally get underway; Hannah watches them go and is proud of their appearance.
    • The first call that Amy and Jo make is at the home of the Chesters. Before they go in, Amy gives Jo pointers on how to behave, telling her to be "calm, cool, and quiet."
    • Jo follows the letter of Amy's instructions, but not the spirit. She gives one-word answers to everything and acts excessively dignified. Mrs. Chester and her daughters try to draw her out by asking about her writing, but she remains aloof.
    • As they leave the Chester home, they hear one of the women say that Jo is haughty and uninteresting. Amy is frustrated with Jo and tells her that she should be more personable and should gossip and chat with the women as they visit.
    • The next visit is to the home of the Lambs. Here Jo again follows the precise letter of her instructions – in fact, she does a mean imitation of May Chester, Mrs. Chester's daughter, and gossips and giggles and goes completely over the top.
    • The Lambs are especially amused by Jo's anecdotes about Amy's silly childhood escapades. Amy is desperately embarrassed as Jo tells stories about how she learned to ride on a clothes-horse and once carried a saddle on her head across a stream to ride a neighbor's horse.
    • Things only get worse for Amy as Jo receives a compliment on her hat – and reveals to everyone that Amy painted an old straw hat to make it nice and fashionable again. When the Lambs are intrigued, Jo reveals that Amy once painted an old white pair of boots blue to make them look like satin. Amy is ashamed that everyone knows that they are too poor to afford new accessories.
    • Miss Lamb compliments Jo on one of her short stories, and Jo brushes off the compliment. Unfortunately, Jo's modesty seems like an insult to Miss Lamb's taste.
    • Jo realizes that she has offended Miss Lamb and abruptly breaks off the visit. As Jo and Amy leave, Jo is very satisfied with her performance, but Amy is almost in tears.
    • At the next house (we don't learn the name of the family), Amy washes her hands of Jo. They find that a mutual friend, Mr. Tudor, is also calling on the family. Amy chats with the hostess and Mr. Tudor while Jo plays with the young men and children in the family.
    • Jo is dragged off to see a pet turtle belonging to one of the boys. Amy lets herself enjoy chatting with Mr. Tudor, who is a British aristocrat. Amy's social-climbing heart really enjoys hobnobbing with the titled upper classes.
    • After an appropriate time (it was rude to stay too long), Amy politely begins to end the visit. She goes to find Jo and is distressed to find her sister sitting on the lawn in her best dress, a dog lying on her skirt, the children gathered around her, telling a somewhat inappropriate story about a practical joke that Laurie played.
    • As they leave, Amy doesn't comment on Jo's ragged appearance, but does ask why her sister doesn't like Mr. Tudor. Jo says that he is immoral – he treats his family badly and Laurie says he is "fast," which probably means that he wastes money, has mistresses, gambles, drinks, or does other things considered improper.
    • Jo and Amy debate the way that Jo treats people. Amy says that Jo should have respect for Mr. Tudor's rank and position. Jo says that she has more respect for the grocer's son, Tommy Chamberlain, because he is a good person.
    • Amy and Jo's next visit is to the home of the Kings. (Presumably these are the same Kings that Meg worked for as a governess and nursemaid.) The Kings aren't home, so Amy leaves a card. (More Historical Context: In the nineteenth century, middle- and upper-class people had personal or family cards, sort of like business cards. These cards had their names and maybe a family emblem or design, and they were left behind to indicate that you had called on someone when they weren't home. If you cards left by really high-class people, like lords or princesses, you might even display them in your living room to impress your snobby friends.)
    • At the fifth house, Amy and Jo are told that the family is "engaged," which probably means that they already have callers and can't comfortably fit any more people in their living room. (OK, we're saying "living room," but they would have called the room where they received callers a "drawing room." Unless they decided to receive the callers in the library, or the parlor, or the salon, or...well, you get the idea. These people are rich. They've got a lot of rooms to choose from.)
    • The last call that Jo and Amy need to make is to their Aunt March's house. Jo wants to skip it and go home, because they can see Aunt March any time, but Amy says that Aunt March likes to see them pay formal visits, too.
    • Jo sighs and comments on what a good person Amy is; being polite to people and pleasing them seems to come naturally to Amy, but it's very difficult for Jo.
    • Amy and Jo discuss politeness. Jo thinks it is essential that women show their disapproval of immoral men – hence the way that she snubs Mr. Tudor. Amy thinks that it doesn't do any good when they are rude to him, and it helps them when they are polite.
    • When Amy and Jo call on Aunt March, they find their other aunt, Aunt Carrol, visiting also. The two women have been discussing something intently, but they stop when the girls come in.
    • Aunt Carrol asks Amy if she is going to help with the fair – apparently there is going to be a local craft fair. Amy says yes, and that Mrs. Chester, who is organizing the fair, has asked her to be in charge of a table.
    • Aunt Carrol and Aunt March are pleased at Amy's deference toward Mrs. Chester and willingness to accept favors gracefully. Jo says that she hates taking favors from anyone, and her aunts exchange a significant look.
    • Aunt Carrol asks Amy if she speaks French. Amy says that she does, because Aunt March's maid, Esther, taught her.
    • Next Aunt Carrol asks Jo what languages she knows. Jo says that she doesn't know any and isn't any good with languages.
    • Aunt Carrol talks to Amy about her long-term dream to go to Rome and continue studying art. She says that she's sure Amy will get to go someday.
    • As the girls leave, Aunt March tells Aunt Carrol that she should do "it," whatever "it" is, and that she (Aunt March) will pay for it.
  • Chapter 30

    Consequences

    • Mrs. Chester's fair (see Chapter 29) is a small, select affair; only the most genteel girls in the area are being asked to take charge of tables. That includes Amy, but not Jo, who tends to be clumsy.
    • Amy is put in charge of the art table, since she made many of the things that are on it for sale.
    • The day before the fair, as they are setting up, Mrs. Chester asks Amy to let May be in charge of the art table instead. May Chester has been jealous of Amy in general, and the Chesters are also offended because of Jo's rude imitation of May Chester when she visited the Lambs (see Chapter 29).
    • Amy is hurt and doesn't understand what's going on. She offers to withdraw from the fair entirely, but Mrs. Chester starts to feel bad and insists that she take the flower table. Amy agrees.
    • May starts to feel guilty, because Amy has spent so much time and energy arranging the art table and making things for it. She offers to let Amy take her own things to the flower table. Amy misunderstands and thinks that May is scorning her wares; she sweeps them into her apron and walks away.
    • Amy spends the last few hours of her evening trying to get the flower table in shape. Before she came over, it was being run by some of the little girls, and it's pretty disastrous.
    • When Amy goes home that evening, her family are indignant about the snub that she's received. Her sisters think she should withdraw from the fair, but Amy and her mother agree that it's better to turn the other cheek.
    • The next morning, when Amy is putting the finishing touches on her table, she comes across an illustration with the slogan "love thy neighbor as thyself." She looks over at May at the art table and notices how empty the table seems without her wares on it.
    • Amy overhears some of the other girls saying that she was selfish and rude to take her wares away from the art table. Between this criticism and the "love thy neighbor" reminder, she goes over and offers May the wares again. May gratefully accepts.
    • The atmosphere is cleared by Amy's kindness; things go OK with the flower table from here on out. However, the first day of the fair drags for her; the flower table isn't very popular, because it's summer and people can just pick flowers. Meanwhile, people crowd around May at the art table.
    • Amy goes home in the evening, worn out and depressed. Her family sympathizes with her.
    • Laurie arrives home for the weekend from college. Jo tells him what has been happening. Laurie arranges to donate some of the exotic flowers from his grandfather's garden to Amy's table for tomorrow. He also arranges for a group of young men he knows from college to go to the fair and buy things from Amy. (Presumably the fair is raising money for charity.)
    • The next day, the fair is entirely different. Amy's table is much more popular, due to the flowers that Laurie donated and the presence of Jo, laughing and chatting.
    • At one point, Jo scopes out the rest of the fair. She goes to see May at the art table, and May is polite and seems sorry for her pettiness earlier. Jo thinks May is hiding Amy's wares, because they're nowhere to be seen, but May explains that Amy's things have sold out.
    • Jo returns to the flower table and tells everyone about May's change of heart. Laurie orders his college friends to go and buy the rest of the stuff from May's table, including the vases that May herself painted.
    • Aunt Carrol and Mrs. March are also attending the fair. Aunt Carrol learns about what happened and about Amy's good behavior. She says something to Mrs. March, who smiles.
    • That evening, Amy's sisters praise her exemplary behavior.
    • A week later, Mrs. March receives a letter from Aunt Carrol. The Carrol family is going to Europe, and they want to take Amy with them!
    • Jo is very disappointed; she always thought that she would get to go to Europe as Aunt March's companion. Her mother tells her that the letter explains the aunts' change of heart: since Jo said that she hates favors and can't learn French, and since Amy is more polite and cultured, they're taking Amy.
    • When Amy comes home and learns about her opportunity, she is very excited. She considers it a working holiday – she's going to try and make her way as an artist in Rome.
    • The preparations for Amy's departure are rapid. At the last minute, before her family say goodbye to her on board the ship, she clings to Laurie. She asks Laurie to take care of her family while she's gone. Laurie promises to do so – and to come see her in Europe if she ever needs him.
  • Chapter 31

    Our Foreign Correspondent

    • This chapter consists of some of Amy's letters home to her family from Europe.
    • The first letter is written from London. Amy, along with her Aunt and Uncle Carrol and her cousin Flo, is staying at a hotel in Piccadilly.
    • Amy says that she had a pretty good time on board ship on the way to London, after she got over her first seasickness. Her aunt and cousin were seasick most of the time, so she spent a lot of time alone on deck watching the waves.
    • Their ship docked on the coast of Ireland, which was beautiful. One of the men Amy met on board ship, Mr. Lennox, recited a limerick for her before he left.
    • The ship went on to Liverpool for a few hours, where Uncle Carrol bought the right accessories and got the right haircut to make him look British – or at least that's what he thinks.
    • Also at Liverpool, one of Mr. Lennox's friends brought Amy a bouquet from him.
    • Amy and her family traveled across the country from Liverpool to London. The journey was really picturesque; Amy and Flo were excited about everything, Uncle Carrol calmly read his guidebook, and Aunt Carrol went to sleep.
    • When they arrived in London, it was raining. The first thing Aunt Carrol did was to buy Amy some nice clothes.
    • While Aunt and Uncle Carrol took a nap in their hotel room, Amy and Flo went for a ride in a hansom cab, although later they found out that they had behaved improperly. The cab driver would only go really fast or really slow.
    • Most recently, the family went to Hyde Park, an extremely fashionable park in an upper-class part of London. They did some fun people-watching and saw a lot of aristocrats.
    • They also went along a fancy boulevard called "Rotten Row," which is a corruption of the "Route de Roi" or "Way of the King." Many people were riding, and Amy thought it was funny to see English-style riding instead of the American-style.
    • In the evening, they went to Westminster Abbey. Amy doesn't try to describe it because it was too fantastic.
    • That's the end of the first letter, but then Amy adds a P.S. to say that Laurie's English friends, the twins Fred and Frank Vaughn, came to see her. She and Fred, who is quite handsome now, talked about old times.
    • Amy's second letter is written from Paris some time later. She refers to other letters from London that aren't included in the novel, reminding her family about sightseeing trips that she went on with Fred and Frank Vaughn. Fred, she says, was especially nice.
    • Now Amy and her aunt, uncle, and cousin are in Paris, and Fred has turned up there to visit them! At first Amy's aunt disapproved of his obvious romantic interest, but now they're glad he's there, because he's the only one of them who can speak French.
    • Amy is enjoying sightseeing in Paris, especially the art in the Louvre and the relics of famous people.
    • Amy's also admiring the jewelry that she sees. Fred wants to buy her some, but she won't let him.
    • Amy describes walks in the famous garden, the Jardin des Tuileries, and the view from her hotel window. She says Fred is with them a lot, and that he's very entertaining and has great manners.
    • Next week, Amy says, they are going to Germany and Switzerland, and she won't be able to write as many letters because they'll be moving around. That's the end of this letter.
    • The next letter is written from Heidelberg, in Germany, and addressed just to Mrs. March. Amy begins by saying that she has a little time before they go to Berne, in Switzerland, and needs to tell her mother what has happened.
    • One night, Amy says, they went sailing up the Rhine in the moonlight with Fred. It was beautiful, and a group of students they met serenaded her and her cousin. That night, after they came home, Fred and the students serenaded them again under their windows. It was very romantic, and they threw flowers down to the men.
    • The next day, Fred showed Amy a flower he was keeping in his pocket. She said that Flo had thrown it, and he threw it away, but she's starting to realize that he's interested in her.
    • Amy tells her mother that she never realized Fred was interested in her, and she hasn't really fallen in love with him. However, she's decided that, if he asks her to marry him, she will say yes.
    • Amy tells her mother all Fred's advantages: he's handsome and wealthy and smart, he loves her, and his family like her. Isn't that enough?
    • Amy writes that someone in the family has to marry well – Meg didn't, Jo won't, and Beth can't (because she's too sick and too young). Their family needs money and good connections, so she's going to make them!
    • Yesterday evening, Amy says, she was sitting in a castle that they were touring, waiting for Fred to come back from picking up his letters. She felt like a girl in a storybook.
    • Fred came rushing in upset about something. He received a letter asking him to come home because his brother, Frank, is very sick.
    • Fred asked Amy not to forget him. She wouldn't make any promises, but she gave him an affectionate look, and he seemed to accept it as a promise.
    • Amy tells her mother that she expects Fred to come back and propose to her, and she's planning to say yes. And that's the end of the letter!
  • Chapter 32

    Tender Troubles

    • Marmee tells Jo that she is anxious about Beth, who seems depressed and preoccupied.
    • Jo says that Beth isn't a little girl anymore – she's eighteen and a woman, and probably has her own adult dreams and desires now.
    • Marmee tells Jo that she is very comforting and supportive as an adult daughter. Jo admits that she is best at hard work and coping with crises; she's not graceful or elegant like Amy.
    • Jo promises her mother that she will try to find out what Beth is worrying about. Marmee realizes that Jo has problems too, but Jo says those can wait.
    • Jo watches Beth for a while and thinks about her. One day, she sees how Beth reacts to Laurie shouting out a greeting as he goes by – Beth blushes and even starts tearing up! She decides that Beth must be secretly in love with Laurie.
    • Jo thinks about how she is the only sister who isn't getting romantic – Meg is married, Amy's nearly engaged, and Beth seems to be in love.
    • Everyone seems to think that Laurie is falling for Jo, but Jo hates it when people suggest this.
    • When Laurie went to college, he got interested in one girl after another, but these were always just little infatuations that died away really fast. Now he hints that he's in love with one particular girl, but he won't say who. He studies hard to try and make this mysterious lady proud of him.
    • Now Jo convinces herself that Laurie is especially kind to Beth and that the two of them might pair off.
    • Jo decides that she needs to get herself out of the way so that Laurie can fall in love with Beth without being distracted. She can't figure out where she could go.
    • Sitting on the old sofa, Jo begins to think about how to handle the situation. Usually, when she wants to be alone to think, she uses a prickly old cushion as a barricade. Tonight, she forgets to put it down, and Laurie drops onto the sofa beside her.
    • Jo tries to make Laurie go and talk to Beth, but Laurie wants her to pay attention to him after his week of studying.
    • Jo brings up Miss Randal, the latest college girl on whom Laurie's had a crush. He laughs and says she's engaged to someone else.
    • Jo says that at least that will stop Laurie from wasting money sending her flowers. Laurie says that the girl he wants to send flowers wouldn't like or accept them.
    • Jo tells Laurie to stop flirting. Laurie says it's harmless and he wishes Jo would flirt, too, but then he takes it back and says he likes it that she is straightforward.
    • In fact, Laurie says, he doesn't like really flirtatious girls; he thinks they are un-feminine. Jo is glad that he still likes modest girls and tells him to devote himself to one of them.
    • Laurie asks if she means it and she says that she does. However, she tells him to finish college before pursuing a romance.
    • Laurie plays with the tassel on Jo's apron. Jo orders him to leave her alone and go play some music to entertain her, and jokes that he never wanted to be tied to anyone's apron strings. He says that depends on who is wearing the apron. Jo chases him off with the prickly pillow and leaves the room until he goes home.
    • That night, Jo lies awake thinking for a long time. Just before she falls asleep, she hears Beth crying.
    • Jo goes to Beth's bedside and asks her what is wrong. Beth won't tell her and says there is no cure for her problem.
    • Jo stays with Beth until they both fall asleep.
    • In the morning, Jo tells Marmee that she wants to go away and live somewhere else for the winter. She feels cooped up at home, she says, and wants to experience the world and have adventures.
    • Marmee asks Jo where she will go. Jo says that she will go to New York and be a governess for the two children of their friend Mrs. Kirke, who runs a boarding house. She'll also do domestic tasks, like sewing.
    • Marmee is surprised that Jo wants to serve in a boarding house. Jo says that it's honest work and she'll have time to write.
    • Marmee suspects that there are other reasons Jo wants to leave. Jo says that Laurie is getting too fond of her.
    • Marmee asks Jo if she cares for Laurie in return. Jo says she doesn't, and that she also doesn't think they're suited for one another. Marmee agrees and is relieved.
    • Marmee also asks Jo about Beth. Jo says that she thinks she's figured out Beth's problem, but that Beth still doesn't want to talk about it.
    • The family discuss Jo's plan and agree on it. They write to Mrs. Kirke, who is only too happy to have Jo work for her.
    • When Jo breaks the news to Laurie, he takes it well and doesn't tease or joke. He says he's turned over a new leaf.
    • Jo asks Beth to look after Laurie while she's gone.
    • In his parting words to Jo, Laurie tells her that leaving won't do any good – he's fixated on her and plans to go and fetch her if necessary. Creepiness factor: moderate.
  • Chapter 33

    Jo's Journal

    • This chapter is made up of entries in Jo's journal while she is living in New York and working at Mrs. Kirke's boardinghouse as a tutor and seamstress. The journal is a collection of letters addressed to Marmee and Beth, not a secret diary.
    • Jo says that when she left home, she was sad at the beginning of the journey, but quickly got distracted by a woman with four fussy kids. Every time they started to cry, she would "accidentally" drop gingerbread treats for them to snatch up.
    • Mrs. Kirke welcomed Jo warmly and gave her a snug, sunny room with a stove in it. The girls that Jo is tutoring, Kitty and Minnie, are a little spoiled but mostly nice.
    • As Jo went down to the dining room that first evening, she saw a gentleman take a heavy load of coal from one of the maids and carry it up for her.
    • Jo was pleased by this chivalry and asked Mrs. Kirke who it was, and Mrs. Kirke said it was an expatriate German professor, very poor but kind. He teaches to support himself and his orphan nephews, who had an American father.
    • Jo says that she's interested to know more about this professor, but she assures her mother that it's not improper – after all, the professor is almost 40.
    • A few days later, Jo is having trouble with her girls, who have way too much energy. She makes them do some gymnastics to tire them out. In the afternoon, the maid takes them for a walk and she sits alone sewing.
    • Jo hears someone come into the parlor singing in German. She peeps through the curtain on the door and sees Professor Bhaer arranging his books. She notices that he's not handsome, but has good teeth, and his clothes need mending.
    • There is a knock at the door, and a little girl called Tina comes in. She asks the professor for a hug and then she starts to study her lesson. She bends very seriously over a book. Jo wonders if she is the professor's daughter.
    • Two young women come in and Professor Bhaer gives them a German lesson. Jo goes back to her sewing and tries not to eavesdrop, but she hears him getting more and more frustrated with their stupidity.
    • Finally, the women leave. Jo peeps in again and sees Professor Bhaer tired out and Tina asleep on the sofa.
    • That evening, Jo eats dinner at the table with the rest of the boarding house guests. She's curious about them, but not especially interested in any of them as friends, except one woman.
    • The professor is at the other end of the table carrying on two conversations and eating hungrily.
    • As she goes back to her room, Jo hears two of the young men talking about her and criticizing her lack of style. At first she's angry, and then she decides she doesn't care.
    • A few days later, Jo records that she spent the day quietly teaching, sewing, and writing.
    • Jo discovers that Tina is the daughter of a French woman who does the ironing. Tina, Kittie, and Minnie all love Professor Bhaer, who is very good with children.
    • Jo gets to know the one woman who interested her, Miss Norton. She's a wealthy, educated woman who takes a fancy to Jo.
    • Jo gets introduced to Mr. Bhaer by Minnie, and they immediately hit it off. Later that day, she accidentally knocks his door open with her umbrella, to reveal him in his dressing gown darning a sock. She feels bad that he has to mend his own clothes.
    • A few days later, Jo records that Miss Norton has offered to take her to lectures and concerts, and she has gratefully accepted.
    • Jo also records that one day she came into the nursery to find Prof. Bhaer playing with Tina, Kittie, and Minnie, pretending to be an elephant while one of them rides on his back and another leads him on a rope.
    • The girls explain to Jo that on Saturday their mom lets them play however they want. Professor Bhaer promises to be quiet if they bother her, but she enjoys their rambunctious playtime. When the girls are sick of games, Professor Bhaer tells them fairy tales.
    • Jo signs off, asking her mother to forward Amy's letters as soon as the rest of the family has read them.
    • Jo's next letter is specifically to Beth. She says that the girls she is tutoring are coming along fine, although she prefers Tina and Professor Bhaer's nephews, Franz and Emil.
    • Jo confides to Beth that she and the professor are very good friends now and that she has started taking German lessons from him.
    • One day, Jo comes across Mrs. Kirke going through Mr. Bhaer's den, trying to tidy up his books and find his handkerchiefs. Jo goes in to help her and they find three of the handkerchiefs – one over a bird cage, one covered in ink, and one burned because it has been used to hold something near the fire.
    • Mrs. Kirke laughs and says that he uses them for all sorts of things. She says that she agreed to do Mr. Bhaer's washing and mending, but he often forgets to give her his laundry and she forgets to look for it, so it doesn't work out very well.
    • Jo asks Mrs. Kirke to let her do Professor Bhaer's mending. She says it can be in return for borrowing books from him.
    • Jo hoped that Mr. Bhaer wouldn't find out she was doing his mending, but he caught her darning a sock and eavesdropping on one of his lessons, trying to learn German by overhearing him. He offered to give her the lessons she wanted in return for all the little secret tasks she's been doing – sewing buttons back on, putting heels in his socks, and so on.
    • At first Jo didn't do very well learning German, and worried that she was irritating the Professor when he threw the book on the floor and marched out of the room.
    • However, a moment later he came back into the room with an edition of Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales in German.
    • With this more interesting material, Jo has started to do much better. She enjoys the stories and learns the grammar as she goes.
    • Jo ends her letter by saying she's glad to hear Laurie is doing well and thinks Beth must manage him better.
    • The next entry/letter is for the whole family, including the Laurences. Jo wishes everyone Happy New Year and thanks them for their Christmas presents.
    • On New Year's Day, Mr. Bhaer gave Jo a nice edition of the collected works of Shakespeare. He said it was like a library in one book and told her to study the characters. She writes that she's appreciating Shakespeare a lot more now that Mr. Bhaer is there to explain it to her.
    • Jo wasn't sure what to get Mr. Bhaer, so she got him several presents and hid them around his room.
    • The boarding house had a masquerade party on New Year's Eve. Jo wasn't going to go because she didn't have anything to wear, but then Mrs. Kirke and Miss Norton found some old brocade and things and dressed her up. She had a great time acting while masked, and nobody recognized her at the party until she took her mask off!
    • Jo ends by wishing her family love and saying that she is happy working hard.
  • Chapter 34

    A Friend

    • While she lives in New York and works at Mrs. Kirke's boarding house as a governess, Jo still finds time to write.
    • Motivated by the desire to contribute to her family, especially to provide comforts for Beth in her illness, Jo tries to earn as much money as she can from writing.
    • When Jo won a prize for her short story, she became really enthusiastic about writing; but after the disaster with her novel, she stopped for a while.
    • Now Jo is back to writing regularly, trying to make her way as an authoress. She decides to write sensational stories – whatever will sell.
    • Jo takes one of her sensation stories to Mr. Dashwood, the editor of a paper called the Weekly Volcano.
    • Jo finds Mr. Dashwood in a smoky, dingy office with two other seedy-looking men. She tells him that she's bringing a manuscript for a friend of hers.
    • Mr. Dashwood flips through Jo's manuscript (the "friend," of course, is imaginary) and notices that she has some writing experience because of the way it's formatted. He tells her that she can leave it with him and come back next week for his answer.
    • Jo doesn't want to leave the manuscript behind, but she doesn't know what else to do, so she agrees.
    • When Jo goes back, Mr. Dashwood, alone this time, tells her that he will publish the story if she agrees to some editorial changes. Jo is surprised to discover that he's taken out the moral of the story, but Mr. Dashwood tells her that morals don't sell very well.
    • Mr. Dashwood agrees to pay Jo $25-$30 for the story, which is a lot more than she was earning before. (Don't forget that the dollar is worth a lot more in the mid-nineteenth century than it is now.)
    • Mr. Dashwood tries to learn Jo's name, but she asks him to publish the story anonymously. They arrange for her to keep submitting stories to the Weekly Volcano. Mr. Dashwood advises her to make them short and exciting.
    • Jo spends a lot of time and energy working on her stories. They are "sensation fiction" – pure entertainment and very unrealistic, about terrible crimes in haunting Gothic locations.
    • Jo is a little uncomfortable because she hasn't told anyone, not even her family, that she is writing sensation fiction. She starts to get more and more involved in the details of her writing and researches methods of murder, details of crimes, and other immoral and un-feminine things.
    • While Jo is being slowly corrupted by the fiction she's writing, she is also starting to realize what a good man Mr. Bhaer really is. The narrator thinks this might be the effect of studying character, especially in Shakespeare.
    • Jo tries to figure out why everyone likes Mr. Bhaer so much. He is poor, plain-looking, and strange, but universally admired. She decides that it is because he is such a generous, positive person.
    • When one of Mr. Bhaer's friends comes to visit him from Vienna, Jo learns that he is actually Professor Bhaer, a prominent German intellectual, widely respected for his learning and knowledge.
    • Jo's friend Miss Norton takes Mr. Bhaer and Jo to many cultural and intellectual events in the city. One evening, they go to a symposium together.
    • The symposium is being held in honor of some of the intellectual celebrities of the day, including a poet, a novelist, a theologian, and some scientists. Jo is disappointed to learn that they are only human – the poet is a greedy eater, the novelist drinks too much, the theologian is flirtatious, and the scientists gossip.
    • At a refreshment break, Jo and Mr. Bhaer find themselves caught up in a philosophical conversation that downplays the importance of religion.
    • Jo isn't sure what to think – the philosophy is dazzling, but feels wrong to her somehow.
    • Mr. Bhaer tries to be polite, but finally feels morally obligated to argue with the philosophers. He defends traditional religious values and belief in God. Jo feels relieved.
    • This conversation is only one of many incidents that strengthen Jo's respect for the professor. She wants him to like her, and she wants to be worthy of his respect.
    • One evening, the professor comes in to give Jo her German lesson, having forgotten that he is still wearing a paper hat that Tina made.
    • Jo laughs at the hat and the professor takes it off. When he looks at it, he realizes that it's made from a copy of a sensational newspaper – not the Weekly Volcano, but something pretty similar. He denounces the paper and says that things like it are morally corrupting for children and young people. You know, the kind of stuff people say today about video games and TV.
    • Jo feels ashamed, because she writes similar material. The professor sees her blush and starts to realize what she has been writing; he's met her downtown sometimes around the newspaper offices.
    • Trying to influence Jo, Mr. Bhaer continues to talk about the bad influence of sensation stories.
    • Jo objects and says that sensation stories are only silly, not actively bad, and reminds him that there is a demand for them. Mr. Bhaer disagrees and tells Jo that there is a demand for lots of things, but that doesn't make them right. He burns the paper.
    • Jo and Mr. Bhaer go back to their German lesson. That evening, Jo re-reads the stories she has written. She decides that Mr. Bhaer is right; the stories are too sensational, and they have corrupted her and her readers.
    • Jo burns all the stories that she wrote for the Weekly Volcano. She thinks about whether she should keep the money she earned from them. Eventually, she decides that it's OK because she didn't do much harm yet, and her family can use the money.
    • Jo wishes to herself that she didn't have a conscience – it's pretty inconvenient.
    • Next, Jo tries writing heavily moralistic stories, but Mr. Dashwood won't publish them, and neither will anyone else.
    • After that, Jo tries writing children's stories, but she can't find anyone to publish these the way that she's written them, either.
    • Jo decides to stop writing for a little while; if she can't write anything good, she's not going to do it at all. What she doesn't realize is that Professor Bhaer has been observing her moral dilemma and is proud of her for her decision.
    • Jo stays with Mrs. Kirke through the winter and spring and leaves the boarding house in June. Everyone is sorry to see her go.
    • Jo invites Mr. Bhaer to come and see her in her hometown. He is pleased by the invitation, but when she mentions Laurie's upcoming graduation he gets depressed.
    • Mr. Bhaer sees Jo off at the station, where she is glad to think that, even if she didn't earn a fortune or publish a great book, she has made a true friend.
  • Chapter 35

    Heartache

    • Laurie studies hard and graduates with honor. The Marches and Brookes attend his graduation.
    • Laurie has to stay in his college town for a graduation dinner, while his family and friends return home. He hands Jo into her carriage and asks her to come meet him when he arrives the next morning.
    • Jo notices the way Laurie is looking at her and starts to worry about his feelings.
    • The next day, Jo has decided that she's just being vain. She stops at Meg's house and plays with her niece and nephew on her way to meet Laurie.
    • Jo and Laurie begin walking home together. Laurie talks about all kinds of things and seems distracted. There's an awkward pause, and then Jo asks Laurie not to say the things he's about to.
    • Laurie insists that Jo hear out his proposal. Jo agrees to listen.
    • Laurie declares that he's loved Jo ever since he first met her. Jo is upset and says she was trying to spare Laurie this scene.
    • Laurie says that women are contrary and say no when they mean yes, so he's never been sure of how she felt. Jo says that she's never been the kind of person who said one thing and meant another.
    • Jo tells Laurie that she went away to try and stop his feelings for her from developing. He says that he knew that, but it was no use, and he worked hard in college just to please her.
    • Jo says that Laurie is too good for her and that she doesn't know why she can't love him, but that she just can't.
    • Laurie stops completely still and rests his head on a fence post. Jo is frightened by how depressed he seems and starts apologizing, explaining that she would love him if she could, but love isn't something you can force.
    • Jo says she has something to tell Laurie. Laurie gets angry because he thinks that she's going to say she's in love with Professor Bhaer. Jo defends the professor against Laurie's insults, but says that she doesn't love him either – that she doesn't have romantic feelings for anyone.
    • Jo convinces Laurie to calm down and listen to her. She says that she agrees with her mother that she and Laurie aren't suited for one another – they both have serious tempers!
    • Laurie promises to be calm and saint-like if Jo agrees to marry him. Jo says that's ridiculous and they would never be happy together.
    • Laurie asks Jo to marry him so that they don't disappoint his grandfather, who really wants them to get together. Jo continues to refuse – she can't give Laurie a genuine "yes," so she won't give him any kind of yes.
    • Jo tells Laurie that he will get over her and find a more elegant woman who would make a better wife for him as a rich man. She says that she doesn't think she'll ever get married.
    • Laurie is angry. He says that he knows someday Jo will fall in love with someone, very passionately, and he can't bear to watch.
    • Jo finally loses her patience and says that maybe she will love someone else someday, but she's done her best to do right by Laurie. They can always be friends, she says, but nothing else.
    • Laurie says that Jo's going to be sorry one day and storms off.
    • Jo watches as Laurie stomps off to the river and leaps into his boat and starts rowing away violently. She's relieved, because she thinks the exercise will help him calm down.
    • Jo goes to Mr. Laurence and tells him what has happened. The old man cries, but he doesn't get mad at her. He knows that you can't force love.
    • Mr. Laurence resolves to take Laurie away from the town to give him time to recover.
    • Laurie comes home, tired but calm. He and his grandfather behave as if nothing has happened. Then Laurie goes to the piano and starts playing sad, pathetic music.
    • Mr. Laurence asks Laurie to play something more cheerful. Laurie tries to, but then he hears Mrs. March calling for Jo next door and breaks off.
    • Mr. Laurence goes over to Laurie and puts comforting hands on his shoulders. He explains that he knows what happened.
    • Mr. Laurence suggests that Laurie take a trip abroad and try to forget about Jo. He offers to go with his grandson so that they can have some special family bonding time.
    • Mr. Laurence explains his plan a little more. He wants Laurie to take care of some business for him in London. In the meantime, John Brooke can look after their affairs at home.
    • Laurie starts to feel guilty, because he knows his grandfather doesn't like to travel and is making a sacrifice for him.
    • Mr. Laurence says that he's not going to be a burden – he'll stay in London and Paris and let Laurie travel around Europe independently, seeing museums and hearing amazing music.
    • Laurie agrees, but his heart isn't in it. Mr. Laurence makes him promise to use his liberty honestly. This is nineteenth-century code for "don't take a mistress or lose all your money gambling like an idiot or become an alcoholic."
    • Mr. Laurence and his grandson leave town shortly afterward. As Laurie says goodbye to the March family, he asks Jo one more time if she can bring herself to marry him. She says that she wishes she could, but no.
    • Laurie leaves, and Jo feels terrible. She knows he'll never be the same.
  • Chapter 36

    Beth's Secret

    • When Jo comes home from New York, she is shocked by how much sicker Beth seems.
    • At first Jo forgets about Beth's illness because she's caught up with Laurie's proposal, but after Laurie leaves she notices again.
    • Jo takes Beth on a trip to the seashore, hoping the nice weather and the sea air will help her get better. This was a pretty common nineteenth-century idea – people often went to the coast or to a warmer climate when they were sick.
    • Jo and Beth spend several weeks at the seaside together. Jo takes care of Beth, and the sisters ignore the outside world.
    • Jo wonders how her parents haven't noticed that Beth seems to be dying. She hopes they'll notice for themselves when she and Beth return home.
    • One day, Beth begins to talk to Jo about it. She figures out that Jo has realized she's dying, and says she's glad Jo knows.
    • As the sisters talk about Beth's death, Jo realizes that Beth was never lovesick for Laurie – she was just grieving because she discovered that she was dying. Beth says that she's reconciled herself to it.
    • Jo insists that Beth can get well and says that nineteen is too young to die. Beth, however, is convinced that she is dying and just focuses on her faith.
    • Beth makes Jo promise to tell their parents about her condition. Jo does.
    • Beth tells Jo that she thinks she wasn't meant to live for very long. She never had dreams of getting married or doing something ambitious with her life.
    • Beth watches the birds outside her window. She uses the birds as a metaphor for herself and her sisters – she is like a peep, a docile bird that stays near the shore and sings, just the way she likes to stay at home and take care of the family. Beth thinks that Jo is like a gull, strong and wild, Meg a turtledove, the symbol of a lover, and Amy a lark, flying high but also returning to the nest. We think this novel is like an extra spoonful of sugar in a jar of honey – a little too much.
    • Jo promises to help make Beth's last days happy and gives her sister a kiss.
    • When Jo and Beth return home, their parents realize that Beth is dying. Jo comforts them without words.
  • Chapter 37

    New Impressions

    • Meanwhile, Laurie is walking along the Promenade des Anglais in a fashionable neighborhood of Nice, France. It's sunny and beautiful and many different nationalities are represented by the people strolling along.
    • Laurie's appearance is also very multi-national – he looks Italian, is dressed like an Englishman, and has the attitude of an American. All the women who see him find him amazingly attractive.
    • Laurie, however, is uninterested in all the women around him. He seems to be looking for a blonde woman dressed in blue.
    • Finally, Laurie sees the woman he's looking for driving a little carriage and hurries toward her. It's Amy, who is excited to see him.
    • Laurie tells Amy that he's come to spend Christmas with her the way he promised. She invites him to join her in the carriage and they drive on through the street, chatting.
    • Amy invites Laurie to a Christmas party at her hotel and he accepts.
    • Laurie asks where they are going, and Amy says that she needs to pick up her letters and then go to Castle Hill to look at the view and see the peacocks.
    • Amy asks Laurie what he's been doing. Laurie explains that his grandfather is staying in Paris for the winter, while Laurie himself comes and goes.
    • Amy has to pause the carriage while a procession of priests and nuns goes by. As she waits, she looks at Laurie. He is more handsome and grown-up, but also moody and strange.
    • Amy asks Laurie, in French, what he's thinking. He replies with a flattering compliment, which Amy doesn't like – it's very different from how he used to behave.
    • Amy picks up her letters and then lets Laurie drive the carriage while she reads them. She learns that Beth is very sick.
    • Amy tells Laurie that she thinks about going home to see her sister, but her family advise her to stay in Europe since it's her only chance to do so. Laurie agrees with them.
    • Amy shows Laurie a sketch of Jo. Laurie smiles and puts it in his pocket.
    • Amy says that she's having a very merry Christmas – visiting with Laurie, getting letters, and going to a party in the evening.
    • Amy and Laurie arrive at Castle Hill and stand in the ruins of an old fort feeding the peacocks. Laurie thinks about how much Amy has changed – all for the better. She's just as graceful as ever but more mature now.
    • Amy and Laurie stroll around and look at the view. Amy mentions that Jo would love to see it. Laurie doesn't say much about that.
    • Amy tries to find out what Laurie has been doing with his time. He's apparently been wandering around Europe, mostly in Greece.
    • Amy and Laurie drive home. Laurie says hi to Amy's Aunt Carrol and goes home, promising to come back for the party and dance.
    • While Laurie is gone, Amy does a lot of primping to get herself ready for the dance that evening. She doesn't have much money, so she's not wearing much jewelry and she doesn't have a fancy hairstyle, but she uses flowers and cheap fabrics to make herself look pretty amazing.
    • Once Amy is ready, she just has to wait for Laurie to come pick her up. At first she poses on a sofa and arranges her dress around her, but then she decides not to be so fake and simply stands waiting for Laurie.
    • Laurie comes in and is stunned by Amy's beauty. Amy's also pleased with his appearance and excited to enter the ballroom on his arm.
    • Laurie gives Amy a bouquet in a fancy silver holder. It's basically a wrist corsage – the holder is a bracelet that snaps on her wrist. If this scene reminds you of a prom date, you've got the right idea.
    • Laurie flatters and compliments Amy. She tells him not to be so fake – she prefers it when he's natural and blunt. He's relieved that she wants him to be himself.
    • Laurie and Amy go to the party in the hotel's ballroom. There are a lot of people there – the Americans staying at the hotel have invited everyone they know, including some royalty and nobles.
    • As Amy enters on Laurie's arm, she's aware that they are one of the best-looking couples in the room and pities some of the other girls there.
    • Amy really likes dancing and is good at it, so when the first song starts to play she's impatient to begin. Laurie asks her to dance, but in a careless and insulting way. She rebukes him, and he asks more politely.
    • Amy gives Laurie the first dance. She wants to dance fast and passionately, but the song is slow and decorous and she has to be dignified instead.
    • Laurie goes to dance with Amy's cousin Flo without asking about Amy's later dances. (Girls at dances in the nineteenth-century actually carried little cards called "ball books" with lists of dances, and the guys would sign up for a dance or two.) Amy lets other men, including a young Polish count, fill her card, so that when Laurie comes back she doesn't have a free dance.
    • Laurie doesn't seem to care that Amy's not available to dance with him. She ignores him for a while, but as he sits on the sidelines he begins to notice that she's beautiful and a good dancer.
    • The dance is cheerful and full of the Christmas spirit. Amy and the Polish count finish a dance and he has to leave. She comes back to Laurie, who gets her something to eat.
    • While Amy eats and rests, Laurie comments on how terrific she looks. He can't figure out what she did to make herself look so much more elegant than the other women in the room.
    • Amy explains about learning to use some cheap fabric and flowers to make herself look good. Then she worries that telling him this was in bad taste, but Laurie likes her honesty and simplicity. He fills up her dance card with his own name for the rest of the night.
  • Chapter 38

    On the Shelf

    • The narrator begins this chapter by considering the different treatment that married and single women receive in America and in France. In America, married women seem to be put "on the shelf" – even though they're still young and pretty, they're not admired as part of fashionable society.
    • About a year after Meg's babies are born, she starts to feel confined to the nursery and left out of the larger affairs of the world – even disconnected from her husband.
    • Meg lets herself get completely obsessed with her children. John feels uncomfortable in his own house and starts spending his evenings with friends.
    • At first, Meg is glad to have John out of the way, but then she starts to miss him and feel lonely. She doesn't really have any adult company, except for her cook, Kitty.
    • Meg starts to feel like she must be getting old and ugly; she thinks maybe John doesn't love her as much anymore.
    • One day, Marmee finds Meg in tears and asks what's wrong. Meg says that John has been neglecting her by spending all his time with Mr. and Mrs. Scott.
    • Marmee gently suggests that Meg has caused the problem herself by making John feel like he's not a part of the family. She tells Meg to try and take an interest in politics and in the other things that John follows, and also to involve John more with the children.
    • Meg is dubious about this plan, but Marmee assures her that she made the same mistake when she was a young mother, and that sharing the burdens of child-rearing – and also trying to lead an adult life and not let the kids' needs take over – will help.
    • Marmee suggests that Meg involve John more with Demi's upbringing. Even as a toddler, the little boy is mischievous and willful, and Marmee thinks he needs his father's discipline. (We're really seeing stereotypical nineteenth-century gender roles here – why couldn't Meg be the disciplinarian? Well, that's just not how this novel works!)
    • Meg starts following her mother's advice. This is a shock for Demi, who is used to being spoiled and having his own way all the time. His father refuses to spoil him.
    • One evening, Meg tries to make some time for her and John to have a nice meal together as adults after the children are in bed. Unfortunately, Demi refuses to go to sleep. (This is turning into an episode of SuperNanny!)
    • Finally, Meg makes Demi settle down by promising to feed him cake in the morning. She dresses up and goes downstairs to have the evening meal, which they call tea, with John.
    • John is pleasantly surprised that Meg is dressed up and they start eating together. But almost immediately Demi comes in and says that it's morning now and he wants his cake!
    • Meg tries to put Demi to bed again, but he's fussy and refuses. She gives him a lump of sugar and goes back downstairs.
    • Demi follows her down and asks for more sugar. This time John has had enough and carries Demi upstairs. SuperNanny would be proud – we hear this is exactly what you're supposed to do.
    • Demi throws a tantrum, crying, and screaming. He keeps getting out of bed, and every time John puts him back in. Finally he stays in bed, but still screaming and hollering.
    • Meg begs John to let her take care of Demi, but he insists on being firm. He lets her kiss Demi good night, and then makes her leave the room.
    • Demi finally calms down and falls asleep. Meg creeps back into the room and sees John sitting quietly by Demi's bed. Demi is holding tightly to his father's finger. Meg realizes that John can be tender with the children as well as firm.
    • John comes downstairs and finds Meg trimming her bonnet (that is, she's putting decorations, probably ribbon, on a hat or cap). She asks him to read the election news from the newspaper while she works. Meg tries to be interested in it.
    • In return, John tries to be interested in Meg's bonnet. She says that it's a fancy one to wear to concerts and the theater sometime and asks him to take her to a concert soon – she's been shut up at home too much. John agrees.
    • John asks what made Meg change how she was doing things, and Meg describes her talk with Marmee. John is delighted and gives her a big kiss.
    • The Brookes go on together like this, caring for their children together and also making time for themselves as a couple. They don't have the recipe for marriage perfect at first, but gradually they make things work very well.
  • Chapter 39

    Lazy Laurence

    • Laurie stays in Nice for a month hanging out with Amy. He enjoys her company and sisterly affection...or is it just sisterly?
    • As Amy and Laurie get to know each other better as adults, they start judging each other, too. Laurie realizes just how great Amy really is, but Amy's disgusted with Laurie's laziness and selfishness.
    • One day at noon, Laurie comes over to see Amy and she suggests that they go to Valrosa to sketch. They drive to the rose garden together in a small carriage, moving through the picturesque Italian countryside.
    • They arrive and walk through the garden admiring the roses. Amy comments on the beautiful roses, and Laurie comments on their thorns. Amy tells him to look for roses lower down on the bushes that don't have any thorns. Laurie thinks about how symbolic this is – the thorny, inaccessible red rose reminds him of Jo, and the little, thornless white roses below it are like...you get the idea.
    • Amy asks Laurie when he is going to go back to Paris to be with his grandfather. Laurie feels lazy and isn't in any hurry to go, but Amy chides him for delaying.
    • Laurie tries to cut off the conversation by flirting with Amy, but she won't flirt back. She asks him what he's doing with his life these days, but he just makes jokes in return.
    • Amy starts making a sketch of Laurie lying on the grass. She works hard and energetically, contrasting with his laziness.
    • Amy mentions Jo, and Laurie gets distracted and bitter. Amy tells him that he looks like the effigy of a knight on a tomb, and he says he wishes he was. He seems to mean that he wishes he was dead, and Amy tells him that's ridiculous.
    • Laurie softens a little and tells Amy he's OK. Amy is relieved – she was worried he might have been gambling, or taken a mistress.
    • Amy tells Laurie that they should confide their secrets to each other. He tells her to start, and she says she doesn't have any secrets.
    • Laurie asks Amy when she is going to start on her first great artistic work. She says never – after going to Rome and seeing all the great art there, she realized that she had talent, but not genius. Now she plans to be "an ornament to society" instead.
    • Laurie asks Amy about Fred Vaughn. Amy confesses that she isn't engaged yet, but hopes to be soon. She admits that she doesn't love Fred, but he is rich and gentlemanly and she's decided that someone in the family needs to make a good marriage. Laurie feels strangely disappointed.
    • Amy tells Laurie that he needs to wake up and get his life together. He doesn't take her seriously and suggests that she get it together for him. She rolls up her sleeves (metaphorically speaking, that is) and gives him a lecture he's not going to forget anytime soon.
    • Amy starts her lecture by telling Laurie that she and her cousin Flo call him "Lazy Laurence." She says that she despises him, because he's rich and has every opportunity of being happy and useful, but instead he's just wasting his time and money being miserable.
    • Laurie tries to joke around and flatter Amy, but she's serious and angry. He puts a hand across her sketchbook and pretends to promise to be good, but she points out how soft his hand is and asks if he's ashamed that he doesn't do any work or anything useful.
    • Amy happens to mention the little ring Laurie wears that Jo gave him. He's immediately hurt and withdrawn.
    • Amy finally figures out that Laurie has proposed to Jo and been rejected, which nobody told her. She becomes more apologetic and says that now she realizes why Laurie has changed so much.
    • Amy tells Laurie that, if he can't make Jo love him, he should at least make her respect him by doing something meaningful with his life.
    • Laurie starts to realize that he's being childish and sulky, and that he should do more to make his life worthwhile.
    • Amy ends her lecture by showing Laurie the sketch she has been making of him, which she's just finished. In it, he lies in the grass with his hat over his face, a perfect image of laziness. Then she shows him another sketch that she made a long time ago of him taming a horse. The drawing isn't as good, but the contrast is clear – Laurie used to be energetic and hard working, and now he just lays around and mopes.
    • Laurie and Amy leave Vevey and drive home in the carriage. Laurie is somewhat cold to Amy, who is saddened by this, but glad that her lecture is having an effect.
    • Amy and Laurie say goodbye. She asks him to stay for dinner, but he says he's busy.
    • The next morning, Amy gets a note from Laurie saying that he has gone to Paris to be with his grandfather. Amy reads it and realizes how much she will miss him.
  • Chapter 40

    The Valley of the Shadow

    • The March family accepts that Beth is dying. They band together to make her last days easy and comfortable and to comfort one another.
    • Everyone contributes something to make Beth comfortable; a room is set aside for her, and Meg visits frequently with her twins.
    • Even in her dying days, Beth keeps doing little domestic tasks. Her favorite thing to do is to knit and sew gifts for the poor schoolchildren who pass underneath her window every day.
    • The first few months are pleasant – the family hangs out together in Beth's room and everyone is cheerful and loving.
    • Soon, however, Beth becomes much sicker. She's too weak to sew and she is very ill and disturbed.
    • Jo spends all her time nursing Beth – she even sleeps on the couch in Beth's room.
    • Beth spends a lot of her time reading the Bible.
    • Watching Beth come to grips with her mortality is an important moral lesson for Jo. She starts to realize how important Beth is to the family, even though she doesn't do anything ambitious or showy.
    • One night when Jo is asleep, Beth starts reading Pilgrim's Progress and finds a copy of a poem in Jo's handwriting. She reads the poem, which is about her, and finds it loving and comforting.
    • Jo wakes up and she and Beth talk about the poem, and about how much Beth has meant to the family. Beth says that she knows now that she hasn't wasted her life.
    • Beth and Jo talk about their religious faith and their belief that death will not really part them, in the end.
    • Beth makes Jo promise to take her place as the "angel in the house" and take care of their parents.
    • Beth doesn't say any famous last words, but her death is easy and gentle.
    • Beth's family prepare her body for burial – that's pretty typical for the nineteenth century. The family thanks God for Beth's life.
  • Chapter 41

    Learning to Forget

    • Laurie takes the lecture that Amy gave him to heart. He goes back to his grandfather and thinks about how he could do something useful with his life.
    • Laurie begins to realize that his love for Jo is cooling. He wants her to respect him, but isn't desperate for her love anymore.
    • At first, Laurie turns to composing music. He tries to write a really sad and pathetic song about Jo, but somehow he's always humming cheerful music instead.
    • Next Laurie tries to write an opera. He's trying to make Jo into the heroine, but somehow he finds himself writing about a sweeter, more delicate, more blonde sort of woman. A woman like...Amy, perhaps?
    • Laurie goes around in a fog for a while, writing about this blonde heroine and wondering what it is that seems to be simmering inside him. Is it genius? Well, maybe.
    • One day, Laurie comes home from seeing a Mozart opera and realizes that his own operatic compositions are nothing in comparison. He decides to stop trying to compose music and turn his attention to something else.
    • Laurie wishes that he weren't too rich to need a job. He realizes that he needs to stay busy so that he doesn't become idle or immoral. We're not all that sympathetic: if only we had the same problem of too much money and leisure time!
    • The narrator speculates about Laurie's behavior. Most novelists might have him go through a period of dissipation, where he spends too much money and gambles and sleeps around. But, the narrator tells us, his promises to his grandfather and the influence of the March girls keeps him from doing anything immoral.
    • Laurie's romantic love for Jo finally disappears entirely. At first he resists this change, but then he admits to himself that he just feels a brotherly love for her now.
    • Laurie compares his changing affections to Mozart's life. Mozart fell in love with a woman who didn't want to marry him, so he married her sister instead and was perfectly happy. This gives Laurie an idea.
    • Before giving up, Laurie writes one more letter to Jo asking if she'll relent and marry him. She writes back telling him "no" once again – and also telling him that Beth is getting worse. Jo asks Laurie to comfort Amy for the coming loss of her sister.
    • Laurie writes to Amy and they begin corresponding regularly – but Laurie won't go and visit her until she asks him.
    • Meanwhile, Fred Vaughn has come back and asked Amy to marry him – and she has refused.
    • Amy is starting to care a lot about Laurie's good opinion of her. She writes him letters twice a week and tells him about everything going on in her life. She tells him that she loves him like a brother, but...you get the idea.
    • Amy goes around making sketches of knights and young men. The sketches are faceless, since that's fashionable at the moment – and also convenient for concealing who she's really thinking about.
    • In one of her letters, Amy tells Laurie that Fred has gone to Egypt. Laurie understands that this means Amy has refused his proposal of marriage.
    • One day, the news arrives that Beth has died. It's too late for Amy to do anything about it or to come home for the funeral, so her family tells her to stay in Europe.
    • When Laurie gets the news of Beth's death, he rushes from Paris to Vevey, where the Carrols are living, in order to comfort Amy.
    • Amy, sitting alone in a garden and mourning for Beth, is overjoyed to see Laurie. She feels like he can sympathize with her loss more than her aunt, uncle, and cousin, and she's also just glad to have him around!
    • As soon as Amy and Laurie see each other, they know they're in love. But they still have to be prim and proper about everything.
    • As they sit down on a bench in the garden and begin to talk, Laurie sees some of Amy's sketches and figures out how she is feeling.
    • Laurie begins taking care of Amy, being kind and also a bit commanding. He makes her walk in the garden to stay warm in the cold wind, and they talk about Beth.
    • When Amy and Laurie come back, Aunt Carrol realizes that Amy is in love with Laurie instead of Fred. She doesn't talk to Amy about it – just starts spending more time with her daughter Flo and tactfully leaving Amy and Laurie alone together.
    • Amy and Laurie are very active, going for walks, rowing on the river, and spending a lot of time together. The weather is great, the place is beautiful, and the whole world is basically nudging them and winking.
    • Laurie decides that his second romance is going to be more calm and decorous than the first. He doesn't make a scene or declare his love for Amy; he just spends time with her and is sweet to her.
    • One afternoon, Laurie and Amy are rowing a boat together on the lake. Amy says they row well together, and Laurie asks if she'll "row" with him all their lives. And, of course, she says yes.
    • If you're wondering, yes, that means they're engaged now!
  • Chapter 42

    All Alone

    • In the wake of Beth's death, Jo finds it difficult to keep her promise to comfort her parents and take her sister's place in the home.
    • Jo often wakes up in the night and cries, grieving for Beth. Her mother hears her and comes to comfort her each time.
    • During the day, Jo has long conversations with her father. She tells him how difficult it is for her to cope with losing her sister and with resigning herself to her domestic tasks. He consoles and counsels her. They're finally able to talk about things as equal adults, as well as father and daughter.
    • Jo is also comforted by doing simple domestic chores and thinking of the way that Beth did them.
    • Hannah thanks Jo for taking Beth's place as a housekeeper.
    • One day, Jo and Meg are sitting together and sewing. Jo realizes how much Meg has grown as a person after her marriage.
    • Another day, Jo is helping Meg in the nursery, making kite for Demi. She asks Meg if marriage would suit her, too.
    • Meg thinks that marriage would be great for Jo and that it would help bring out her softer, more feminine side. She thinks Jo is like a chestnut burr – prickly on the outside, but soft on the inside.
    • Jo and Meg continue to have lots of sisterly chats about marriage and children. As Jo watches Meg's domestic life, she starts to wish that she were also married and that she could have kids of her own.
    • The narrator notes that, if Jo was a heroine in a moral story, then at this point she'd do everything perfectly and be happy and content. But she's not a heroine – she's a regular person, and so things are more difficult for her.
    • Marmee suggests that Jo take up writing again, because it always made her happy in the past. Jo agrees to try writing, although she intends to write something personal this time, not for a wider audience.
    • The story that Jo writes is published in a magazine and receives rave reviews. She doesn't understand why, and her father says it's because the story is so true to life.
    • Jo thinks that her life experiences – her love for Beth, her grief at Beth's death, and her closer connection to her parents – have made her a better writer. She keeps writing stories and they continue to be received well.
    • Amy and Laurie write to the Marches to announce that they are engaged. Marmee worries that Jo will be upset by this, but she's pleasantly surprised to discover that Jo is happy for them.
    • Jo says that she can be happy with the kinds of love in her life – love from her parents, friends, and family – but that she wouldn't mind a romance, too.
    • Jo and Marmee read Amy's description of the selfless love that she and Laurie feel for one another. They feel very happy for the young couple, and Jo hopes to experience that kind of love herself one day.
    • Jo feels restless and goes up into the attic. She rummages through her possessions and comes across some notebooks from the winter she spent in New York.
    • In one of the notebooks, she finds a message from Mr. Bhaer, saying that he is going to be late but will eventually come. Originally, it was just a note to let her know he'd be late for something in New York, but now it seems like foreshadowing! Jo, full of complicated feelings, begins to cry.
  • Chapter 43

    Surprises

    • Jo is sitting alone in the evening, thinking and having a little bit of alone time. She's almost 25 and feels like she has nothing to show for it. She thinks that she's going to be an old maid, focused on her career as an author instead of on a marriage to a man.
    • The narrator discusses spinsterhood. To a girl in the nineteenth century, who was brought up for the sole purpose of finding a husband, not getting one might seem like the end of the world. But, the narrator says, we should be kind to old maids, because they're missing out on marriage, and because any girl could end up that way if things didn't work out for her. This passage is a little weirder because Louisa May Alcott was herself an old maid, and perfectly happy.
    • The narrator stops lecturing us and returns to the plot. Jo looks up from the soft to see Laurie bending over her. She's excited to see him and gives him a big hug to welcome him back.
    • Jo asks where Amy is, and Laurie tells her that his wife is at Meg's with Marmee. Jo is surprised but happy to learn that Amy and Laurie are already married!
    • Jo and Laurie settle down to talk about this new state of affairs. Things are both more and less awkward between them – Laurie's not trying to make Jo love him anymore, but they can't really be close in the same way.
    • Laurie explains that he and Amy got married early because their travel plans changed. The Carrols decided to stay in Paris for another winter, so Amy didn't have a chaperone home. (It wouldn't have been proper for her to travel alone with gentlemen, even honorable ones like Laurie and his grandfather.) So Laurie and Amy got married to make it proper and free them up to come back to the U.S. together with old Mr. Laurence.
    • Laurie describes their wedding – Amy's aunt and uncle were there, and they knew that the Marches would approve, and his grandfather was also there, so it worked out OK. They had a quiet ceremony at the office of the American consul (like an ambassador) in Paris. It had to be quiet, because they're still mourning Beth.
    • After their wedding, Amy and Laurie spent a month at Valrosa for their honeymoon.
    • Laurie makes one last emotional speech to Jo. He explains that he still loves her, but in a different way – as a sister. He says that she was right that he should have waited to see how his feelings would develop, and that he'd find a wife more suited to him.
    • Jo says that she believes him, but reminds him that they can't be kids together anymore; they have serious grown-up work to do in the world.
    • Jo feels like time is flying; weren't they all playing together as children just yesterday? Laurie reminds her that he's older than she is. She counters by saying that she's aged emotionally in the wake of Beth's death.
    • Laurie realizes how alone Jo has been in her grief – Meg has her husband and children, Laurie and Amy have each other, but Jo has been alone with her parents.
    • Jo quickly distracts herself by wondering how Amy and Laurie get along together. Laurie says they get along very well, and mostly he lets Amy be in charge, but she's very subtle and gentle about it so he doesn't mind.
    • Jo and Laurie are interrupted by Amy, who comes in with her mother, Mr. Laurence, Meg, Daisy, Demi, and everyone.
    • The family members greet each other. Everyone notices how nice a couple Amy and Laurie make, and how nice it is to see how devoted they are to old Mr. Laurence.
    • Meg notices Amy's new European dress and manners. Jo thinks that they make a perfect couple. Mr. and Mrs. March notice that Amy has made a good marriage – not just for money, but for love, too.
    • Daisy and Demi are excited to see their aunt, whom they hardly remember, and their new uncle.
    • Hannah is pleased to see Amy as a wealthy, dignified woman.
    • Everyone talks at once, trying to tell each other about what's happened while they were apart. We find out that Amy and Laurie have been in Europe for three years.
    • The family goes in to have their late evening meal, which they call tea. Everyone is too busy to look after the twins, who steal sweets.
    • After the meal, everyone goes back into the parlor. The family is all paired off, except for Jo, who is left alone. She and Hannah discuss Amy's majestic appearance with satisfaction.
    • Hannah goes back to the kitchen to start preparing tomorrow's breakfast. Jo, left by herself, is feeling especially lonely and sad.
    • Suddenly, there is a knock at the door. Jo answers it and finds Mr. Bhaer on the doorstep!
    • Mr. Bhaer tries to excuse himself, since the family has a party going on, but Jo insists that he come in and join them.
    • Mr. Bhaer asks Jo why she looks so ill. She says she's been tired and sad after Beth's death, and he comforts her.
    • Jo takes Mr. Bhaer into the parlor and introduces him to her family. Everyone greets him pleasantly and he seems to fit into the family right away.
    • Laurie is suspicious of Mr. Bhaer at first, but gradually warms to him. Mr. Bhaer seems to think that Laurie and Jo are a couple.
    • Jo sits in the corner knitting a sock and enjoying the way her family are impressed by Mr. Bhaer. She notices that he is dressed very nicely, especially for him, and wonders if he's courting someone. Then she realizes what that would mean for herself and drops her yarn in surprise.
    • Jo and Mr. Bhaer dive for her ball of yarn at the same time and smack their heads together.
    • The evening passes quickly, and soon the twins are in bed and old Mr. Laurence has gone home. Jo says that the family should sing, the way they used to each evening before bed, before the party breaks up.
    • The idea of singing together makes everyone think of Beth and miss her. Amy plays some of Beth's songs.
    • For the last song, Jo suggests a tune that Mr. Bhaer is especially good at singing, Mignon's song. Jo sings it with him as a duet. Nudge, nudge, foreshadowing! Maybe they'll be "singing" a lot of "duets" together soon!
    • As everyone is departing, Mr. Bhaer realizes for the first time that Laurie is married to Amy. He's pretty excited about this discovery.
    • Mr. Bhaer tells Mrs. March that he is going to be in town on business for a little while and asks for her permission to visit again, which she gives. He leaves with one last look at Jo.
    • Mr. and Mrs. March tell Jo how much they like Professor Bhaer.
    • Jo goes to bed, wondering what Mr. Bhaer's business in town is. Back in his room, Mr. Bhaer is looking at a picture of her. He gives it a kiss before he goes to sleep.
  • Chapter 44

    My Lord and Lady

    • Laurie comes over to the March household and asks Marmee if he can borrow Amy to help him find something in their luggage.
    • Laurie, Jo, and Marmee talk about the way that Amy keeps Laurie on the straight and narrow.
    • As Jo helps Amy put her coat on, she asks what the newly-married Laurences are going to do with themselves. Neither of them needs to work, since Laurie is rich, but they do have plans.
    • Laurie says that he's going to go into business, if only to give him something to do and to keep him from getting into trouble. Amy, as his wife, is going to entertain all the most important people in society at their mansion.
    • Amy and Laurie go off together. Mr. and Mrs. March comment on how happy they seem and what a good couple they make. Jo sighs, but then smiles as Mr. Bhaer comes in!
    • Later that evening, Amy and Laurie talk about the family and their plans.
    • Laurie says to Amy that Mr. Bhaer seems interested in marrying Jo. Amy says that she hopes he will. Laurie wishes Mr. Bhaer was younger and richer.
    • Amy scolds Laurie and starts talking about how women shouldn't marry for money, which makes them both laugh, since she used to claim she would do exactly that.
    • In fact, Amy has married a rich man – but not for his money! She's comforted by his aristocratic appearance, too; he has the nose that she's always wanted.
    • Amy asks Laurie if he will mind if Jo marries Mr. Bhaer. She seems a little bit worried that Laurie might still have romantic feelings for Jo. Laurie assures her that all his romance is directed at her, not at Jo.
    • Amy's last bit of jealousy vanishes forever. (OK, we feel a bit skeptical about this one too, but that's what the narrator claims.)
    • Amy and Laurie speculate on how to use their fortune. They wish they could give money to Jo and Mr. Bhaer, but they know their help wouldn't be accepted.
    • Laurie suggests that he and Amy focus on using their fortune to help "poor gentle folks" instead of "out and out beggars." This is a common nineteenth-century idea – that there are "deserving" and "undeserving" poor people. We're not sure we agree, but Amy and Laurie might have something when they say that some kinds of poverty are more invisible to society. They want to help people who aren't necessarily asking for help, but still need it.
    • Laurie describes the talented young men that he has met abroad who were trying to make their way in the world and needed just a little help. Amy describes girls like herself, who have respectable backgrounds but no money, and miss opportunities.
    • Laurie and Amy agree that they will use their money to help people who are working hard and need just a little assistance to get ahead in the world. They're the nineteenth-century novel equivalent of something like small business loans from the government or scholarships – they're going to give small amounts of money here and there, in subtle ways, to fund projects that wouldn't happen otherwise, and help people succeed.
    • Laurie and Amy's resolution to use their money well draws them closer together in their marriage.
  • Chapter 45

    Daisy and Demi

    • The narrator decides to give us a chapter about two of the youngest members of the extended March family – Daisy and Demi, Meg's twins.
    • The twins are precocious and in danger of being spoiled. Daisy begins trying to sew like her mother when she's only three, and Demi starts learning the alphabet at the same time.
    • Mr. March teaches his grandson the alphabet using a game in which they make the shapes of the letters with their bodies. It's sort of a "YMCA meets Sesame Street" kind of thing.
    • Demi is also very interested in mechanics and physics – he even tries to make his own elevator out of a basket hung over a chair. Daisy, the unfortunate passenger in this elevator, gets her head smacked against the chair a lot.
    • The twins mostly get along well, even though their personalities are really different. Daisy is an unnaturally sweet, quiet girl interested in all things domestic. She reminds her grandparents of Beth, the daughter they lost.
    • Demi is completely different from Daisy – he's very inquisitive and mischievous.
    • One day Demi asks his grandfather what makes his legs move, and they end up having a conversation about how the mind works, and how human beings are related to God. Grandma – that's Marmee – is worried that this is too much for the child to understand, but Mr. March says that if he's old enough to ask a question, he's old enough to get a true answer.
    • Demi is also constantly causing mischief. One day Meg tries to stop him from eating too many raisins, but when she promises later in the day to play any game he wants, he chooses "eating all the raisins."
    • Jo, called Aunt Dodo, plays a lot with both of the children. After Mr. Bhaer starts hanging around, she neglects them. They're sad that she doesn't pay as much attention to him, but they both like Mr. Bhaer, who is good with children.
    • Mr. Bhaer always asks for Mr. March, and the two men talk about philosophy, but nobody is deceived; they all know that he's really interested in Jo.
    • One day, Demi puts Mr. Bhaer and Jo in an awkward position; he asks if big boys like big girls, the way that he likes one of the little girls he knows. Mr. Bhaer blushes and says, well, he thinks sometimes they do.
    • Jo rewards Demi for this awkward question by giving him a slice of bread and jelly. Demi doesn't know why, but he's happy to take it!
  • Chapter 46

    Under the Umbrella

    • While Amy and Laurie are furnishing their house, Jo and Mr. Bhaer are taking muddy walks together over the fields in the evening.
    • Jo doesn't quite understand what's happening – she usually takes a walk in the evening, and now she somehow meets Mr. Bhaer every time, and he's always going the same direction she is. Hmm, what's going on?
    • After a few weeks, Jo's whole family has figured out that Mr. Bhaer is interested in her. Jo herself, however, still doesn't realize it. She also doesn't realize that she's interested in him!
    • Jo starts to hum and sing to herself, and do her hair, and takes longer walks than usual. She's totally into this guy.
    • Jo is embarrassed by her feelings and tries to stifle them; she really is trying to be an unromantic old maid, just like she told Laurie she would be. She's worried that Laurie will mock her or be angry with her, but Amy keeps him in check.
    • For two weeks, the professor and Jo spend almost every day together. Then, with no warning, he goes away for three days.
    • Jo is worried and then angry. She assumes that he has left town without saying goodbye.
    • One afternoon, Jo decides to walk to town. Her mother gives her a list of things to buy and warns her to take an umbrella, but she forgets. Marmee also tells Jo to bring Mr. Bhaer back to dinner if she sees him.
    • Instead of going to the dry goods store to get the sewing supplies her mother needs, Jo walks to the business district where most of the men hang out. She's completely out of place there and wanders around, telling herself that she's not looking for Mr. Bhaer.
    • It begins to rain. Jo is wearing her new bonnet and doesn't have an umbrella. She tells herself that getting wet and ruining the bonnet is just what she deserves for going out looking for Mr. Bhaer in this silly way.
    • Jo starts to do her errands, but she almost gets hit by a truck rushing across the street. In the confusion she bumps into Mr. Bhaer, who asks if he can go with her to do her errands and shelter her with his umbrella. She agrees.
    • Now extremely happy, Jo strolls along with Mr. Bhaer. She notices him looking at her and explains that she's excited to see him because her family thought he had left town. He says he couldn't have left without saying goodbye to them.
    • Jo is excited by this, but then finds out that the professor has finished his business in the town and will be leaving soon. He's planning to teach at a college in the West and use the money to help his nephews, Franz and Emil. (He has to go out West to find a job because there's a strong prejudice against his accent and nationality – most universities of the time would discriminate against him. In the western U.S., however, there are so few qualified people available that he'll be able to get a job anyway.)
    • Mr. Bhaer is thoroughly confused by Jo's behavior. She's trying not to act too eager, and so sometimes she seems to be brushing him off, but she also seems really disappointed that he's going so far away. He can't figure out whether she's actually interested in him.
    • Jo and Mr. Bhaer arrive at the store and Jo buys the things her mother wanted. She's hoping to impress Mr. Bhaer with her shopping skills, but she's really flustered and messes up the transaction.
    • After they're done, Mr. Bhaer suggests that they buy some fancy food and flowers for his last meal with the March family. He pays for everything himself, although Jo vetoes wine – her family doesn't approve of drinking.
    • Mr. Bhaer asks Jo to do him a special favor. Jo's heart practically skips a beat, but it turns out that the favor is to help him pick out a dress for Tina and a shawl for her mother.
    • Jo picks out the clothes and they start on their way home. Jo is scatterbrained and upset, drops the flowers, tries to get on the wrong bus, and is generally mixed up.
    • Mr. Bhaer asks Jo what's wrong. She starts crying and says she's upset because he's leaving.
    • This is all the encouragement Mr. Bhaer needs to propose to Jo. She immediately accepts him. It's not an especially romantic proposal – they're carrying a bunch of packages, and it's raining and muddy, and Jo's bonnet is ruined and Mr. Bhaer's gloves have holes in them. But somehow it works, because they do love each other. (It's OK, gag if you need to!)
    • Jo and Mr. Bhaer – well, we better call him Friedrich now – Jo and Friedrich walk slowly to her parents' house. Jo asks him why he didn't propose, or at least tell her that he loved her, sooner. Like, you know, when they were living in the same boarding house in New York. He says that he thought she was interested in Laurie. Jo laughs and explains that her feelings for Laurie are entirely platonic.
    • Then Jo asks Friedrich why he did come to see her at last. He shows her a poem that she wrote and lost, which he found in the boarding house. The poem is about four trunks in the Marches' attic, one belonging to each girl. In the description of Jo's trunk, there's a hint that she's waiting for someone to love her.
    • Jo is embarrassed by the poem and tears it up. Mr. Bhaer explains that the poem made him realize that she was hungry for love, and he decided to go and offer his to her.
    • Finally, Jo asks one more question – why did he take so long to tell her all this? Because, he says, he wanted to have enough money to be able to offer her a comfortable home. Now that he has this new job out West, that's a possibility.
    • Jo comforts Friedrich and tells him that she is used to poverty and hard work, and even likes them.
    • Jo and Friedrich decide to have a long-distance relationship for the next few years. Each of them will work and store up money, and they'll prepare themselves to get married sometime in the future.
    • Famous scene alert: Friedrich worries that he has nothing to give Jo but his empty hands. She puts her hands in his and tells him they're not empty now.
    • They kiss – in public! – and then Jo leads Friedrich into her parents' house to tell everyone the good news.
  • Chapter 47

    Harvest Time

    • Jo and Mr. Bhaer spend a year apart, working and waiting to have enough money to get married. In their second year apart, Aunt March dies and leaves her mansion, Plumfield, to Jo.
    • Laurie assumes Jo will sell the mansion, but Jo explains that she is planning to use the building to open a boarding school for boys.
    • The whole family likes Jo's plan: Mr. Bhaer can teach the subjects he knows, Mr. March can experiment with progressive education techniques, and old Mr. Laurence can sponsor the school.
    • Jo explains that she has been considering this plan for a long time – it combines her love for tomboyish sport with her mothering instinct. She's planning to care for abandoned or lost boys who might otherwise be corrupted.
    • Laurie wonders how Jo will pay for the school if all the boys are charity cases. She says that she'll have rich pupils at first, and then use the proceeds from their tuition to grant scholarships to needy boys. After all, rich boys need a good moral education, too.
    • Jo says she's already "brought up" one boy pretty well – Laurie himself! She tells him that he can be a model for the other boys.
    • Jo is overwhelmed by the love and enthusiasm of her family. She only misses one thing – Mr. Bhaer, who is still away in the West earning money as a teacher.
    • Now that Jo has Plumfield, Mr. Bhaer returns and they get married. Their school at Plumfield takes off right away; they have six or seven boys, many of them sponsored by Mr. Laurence.
    • The narrator tells us that the school is "poetic justice" – Aunt March used to terrorize the local boys, and now her estate is a home for them.
    • The school isn't fashionable and they don't make a fortune, but it is happy and they care for their boys well. And now Jo is called – wait for a terrible pun – Mother Bhaer. Say it out loud and...yes, we know, it's a terrible pun. Blame Louisa May Alcott, not Shmoop.
    • Jo does make mistakes and there are a lot of funny incidents at the school, but her love and hard work win out and even the most hard-hearted boy relents and becomes better under her care.
    • After a few years, Jo has two boys of her own: Rob, named for her father, and Teddy, named for Laurie.
    • One day in October, five years after Jo's wedding, the whole extended family – Marches, Laurences, Brookes, and Bhaers – gathers together to pick apples and have a picnic.
    • Everyone eats and talks and has a great time. As they pick apples, the boys play, the men discuss philosophy, Amy sketches and Mrs. March and Meg sort the apples.
    • At 4:00 everyone takes a break and has a meal. Professor Bhaer makes a toast to Aunt March, and then another to Grandma's sixtieth birthday. Grandma, of course, is Marmee.
    • Everyone gives presents to Marmee. Most of the children give handmade gifts.
    • Finally, the Professor leads the boys in singing a song that Jo wrote for the occasion.
    • After the singing, the boys play. The adults sit together and the March girls reminisce about the old days.
    • Amy comments on how different Jo's life is from what she originally thought it would be. Jo says that she's very happy, but she still hopes to write a great book someday.
    • Meg says that she came very close to achieving the "castle in the air" that she built for herself – remember that bit in Chapter 13? She's happy and content with the home that she has.
    • Amy says that her life is also different from what she expected, but like Jo she hasn't given up on her art. She is making a marble statue of her infant daughter, who is sickly and likely to die young.
    • Everyone agrees that they are extremely happy, and the novel ends with Marmee saying that she could never wish them greater happiness than they already have. Aww, isn't that sweet.